Today (Friday 15 August 2014) the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) confirmed its refusal to let men with advanced prostate cancer have a drug which could extend life and delay their need for chemotherapy with its devastating side effects.
Abiraterone – a simple pill which men can take at home – has already been approved for men with advanced prostate cancer who have had chemotherapy. NICE was considering evidence submitted by the manufacturer Janssen that its use should be extended to those yet to have chemotherapy. This would allow potentially thousands of men in England and Wales to enjoy the improved quality of life that abiraterone can offer.
From April 2013 to March 2014, abiraterone pre-chemotherapy has been the second most requested drug on England’s Cancer Drugs Fund, suggesting clinicians and patients have great confidence in its benefits. Moreover, on 29 June 2014, former Health Minister Paul Burstow urged the Department of Health to intervene in the NICE process and call off the proposed restriction on this pre-chemotherapy use of abiraterone.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “It’s a fiasco. This decision is a kick in the teeth for men with advanced prostate cancer. For many this presented a vital opportunity for extra time with loved ones and a chance to delay chemotherapy and the debilitating side effects which come with it.
“An inflexible NICE process plus the drug company’s inability to produce all the requested data has led to this being just the latest in a string of hugely disappointing rulings on prostate cancer drugs. Once again men in England will have to take their chances with the Cancer Drugs Fund, with men in Wales and Northern Ireland left with nowhere to turn.
“The current system is flawed. It is not fit for purpose and it is the very people it is supposed to serve who are bearing the brunt. This decision is unjust and it needs to be overturned so that men in desperate need can receive the most effective drugs, wherever they live. We urge Janssen and NICE to get their act together and do whatever is necessary to get abiraterone pre-chemotherapy across the line without delay.”
The Scottish Medicines Consortium is due to appraise the use of abiraterone pre-chemotherapy in early 2015.