19 Mar 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Today 19 March 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is holding its final committee meeting to appraise advanced prostate cancer drug enzalutamide for use on the NHS in England and Wales for men who have already had chemotherapy. Since January Prostate Cancer UK has been spearheading a campaign against proposed restrictions in access to the life-extending treatment which have sparked outrage among thousands affected by the disease across the country.

A draft decision announced in January proposed that enzalutamide would be denied to those men who had already been treated with the only other drug available to men at this stage - abiraterone. Prostate Cancer UK is calling on NICE to follow the lead of the Scottish Medicines Consortium, which approved the life-extending drug for use in Scotland without these restrictions, based on the same evidence.

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “These rigid and nonsensical restrictions are throwing many families into despair, creating unnecessary anguish at the most stressful time of their lives. There can be few injustices as raw as someone with cancer at the end of their life being told that a breakthrough drug which could give them extra time will be snatched away from them based on a technicality. Is this the kind of ‘care’ NICE was set up to broker?  The weight of support for our campaign suggests many disagree.

Every hour one man dies of prostate cancer. It’s high time NICE did the right thing by men and allowed them the unfettered access to this drug – just like men in Scotland.”

Since NICE’s second draft announcement on 28 January this year, support for Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign to overturn the restrictions has gained momentum. Top clinicians have added their voices such as consultant oncologist Professor Jonathan Waxman, as well as prominent men affected by prostate cancer, such as chat show legend Sir Michael Parkinson.  Some 7,000 people have signed a petition urging NICE to reconsider an illogical decision that appears to discriminate against men in England and Wales.

Jackie Fitchett’s husband Ian has exhausted all options available on the NHS. Jackie said: “My husband’s prostate cancer has had a devastating effect on our lives and our family – it is a massive strain for all of us. Now, knowing that there is a successful licensed drug available, but which we simply cannot access because he has had another treatment, seems very very unfair and cruel. It feels like they are putting a price on someone's life. We are actively searching around for other possibilities, which we will be selling our possessions to fund, but it is very stressful.

My husband is dying and could be given extra time with this drug that could mean he was able to see our grandson’s birthday or his 86 year old dads birthday. What has happened to the NHS that will help us when we are sick and at our most vulnerable? All we want to be doing is enjoying our precious time together. It seems that when you get towards the end of treatment, the situation becomes extremely cruel and merely comes down to how much keeping you alive will cost the NHS.”

David Neal, CBE, Professor of Surgical Oncology, University of Cambridge said: “NICE’s decision that men with advanced prostate cancer should not be given enzalutamide if they have previously received abiraterone is not in my view based on good evidence that this approach lacks effectiveness. The mechanism of action of enzalutamide (it blocks the androgen receptor) is quite different from that of abiraterone (it blocks the synthesis of androgens). This decision of NICE will place doctors treating these men in a position of difficulty, they are therefore more likely to start with enzalutamide as first line treatment of hormone relapsed prostate cancer, which may not turn out to be the most cost-effective approach as abiraterone comes off patent”.

The final appraisal decision will be expected approximately six weeks after today’s committee meeting.

Sharp continued: “The decision about this drug has gone back and forth for too long, but NICE still have the chance to put things straight. Everybody would applaud another change of mind if it brings the right decision. This drug can mean months of extra life for men who are standing on the edge of the abyss. There is no time to waste.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact:  Mary Frampton at Prostate Cancer UK press office on 0203 310 7101 at mary.frampton@prostatecanceruk.org

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