A drug which could improve the quality of life for men whose prostate cancer has spread to the spine has today (15 April 2014) been approved to be made available on the NHS in England and Wales by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The drug, degarelix, is a form of hormone therapy which is delivered by injection. NICE has recommended that the drug be made available to men with prostate cancer which has metastasised to the spine and who are showing signs or symptoms of spinal cord compression. Men who have been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer may experience pain as a result of the disease spreading throughout the body. If this spread affects the spine, there is a risk of spinal cord compression which can cause problems such as back pain and other symptoms in the legs, bladder or bowel. Reducing the body’s production of testosterone can help keep a man’s prostate cancer under control for some time, however some hormone therapies can cause initial testosterone surges which could lead to flare ups of these existing problems. Degarelix can rapidly suppress testosterone production, but has a lower risk of these testosterone surges compared to other similar treatments.
Degarelix has already been approved for use in this way on the NHS in Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
Mikis Euripides, Director of Policy at Prostate Cancer UK said:
"Men whose prostate cancer has spread to the spine are often at risk of even further damage through spinal cord compression and if left untreated this could be crippling. We fought to make this drug available and so this decision is good news which could help dramatically improve the quality of life of those men. However, whilst we welcome this positive outcome, the ruling will affect far fewer men than those currently in limbo waiting to hear whether NICE will deny them access to the life-extending drug enzalutamide.
We will continue to campaign to ensure that men with prostate cancer have access to the best treatments, not least enzalutamide."