30 Oct 2015
This article is more than 3 years old

Scotland leads UK in triumphant decision over access to life-enhancing drugs

Two treatments for advanced prostate cancer, abiraterone and radium-223, will be routinely offered on the NHS in Scotland from today, but the campaign for them to be made available in the rest of the UK continues.

Scotland has today become the first UK country to make both abiraterone and radium-223 routinely available to men with incurable, hormone-resistant prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body – whether or not they have had chemotherapy.

Today's announcement by the Scottish Medicine Consortium (SMC) is a triumph for men north of the border, after almost 500 people submitted their own strongly worded support for these treatments alongside our own powerful representations to the committee. The SMC originally said no to abiraterone before chemotherapy, so the subsequent overturning of that decision by an Independent Review Panel is particularly welcome.

A rightful reward for our Scottish supporters

"This fantastic news is an absolute triumph for everyone in Scotland who joined us in calling for men with incurable prostate cancer to be entitled to receive these life-prolonging and life-enhancing treatments," says our Director of Support and Influencing, Heather Blake. "Today is their rightful reward for all their hard work.

"Now that the correct decisions have been made, health boards must waste no time in ensuring that men who need these treatments can access them as soon as possible. Men with incurable prostate cancer should not be subjected to any further delays at a stage in their life when time is at an absolute premium."

But now we need England, Northern Ireland and Wales to follow suit, says Heather.

"Delighted though we are for men who are able to routinely access these drugs in Scotland, our work will go on until the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) follows the SMC’s lead and approves these treatments as the next step towards delivering full access for men throughout the whole of the United Kingdom."

Uncertain future for treatments in rest of UK

NICE first announced its draft decision to reject the use of abiraterone before chemotherapy in May 2014. Seventeen months on and negotiations are still underway with Janssen, abiraterone’s manufacturer, about whether to make this use of abiraterone routinely available on the NHS in England and Wales.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (HPSS) often follow NICE’s lead in drug decisions to make drugs available on the NHS in Northern Ireland, so we urgently need NICE to not delay any further in making its decision.

Meanwhile, men in England can still access abiraterone before chemotherapy via the Cancer Drugs Fund, which isn’t available to men in Wales or Northern Ireland. However, this availability is only guaranteed until April 2016.

The NICE appraisal of radium-223 is currently underway, and we expect a final decision in January 2016. This drug will stop being available on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England from next month.