20 Mar 2016

Earlier abiraterone finally approved for men in England and Wales

Following 18 months of lobbying NICE and the drug's manufacturer, abiraterone will now be made routinely available on the NHS to men with prostate cancer - whether or not they've had chemotherapy.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today approved the advanced prostate cancer drug, abiraterone, to be prescribed on the NHS in England and Wales for men who have not yet had chemotherapy.

The drug had previously been approved in 2012 for men who have already had chemotherapy, but was rejected for use before chemotherapy in August 2014 – a decision we branded a fiasco. Since then, we've urged NICE and the manufacturer to do whatever was necessary to get the treatment approved for routine use without delay.

Some men in England were still able to access abiraterone before chemotherapy through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but an agreement to allow routine access has finally been reached after many months of wrangling. The pharmaceutical company has ultimately shown flexibility on price and NICE has shown flexibility on the data it has been prepared to assess.

The decision is excellent news for thousands of men and their families, and for all those who have helped us call for effective negotiation every step of the way. But unfortunately, for some men – particularly those in Wales – it will simply have come too late.

This is unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to ensure that the newly reformed drug appraisal process will mean that men do not have to wait years to get routine access to such clinically beneficial treatments.

After 18 months, our calls have finally been heard, but it cannot continue to take so ludicrously long to get men what they need

Heather Blake, our Director of Support and Influencing, said: “This long-awaited decision is fantastic news and brings an end to years of uncertainty for men and their loved ones. After 18 months, our calls have finally been heard as NICE and the manufacturer have managed to negotiate a way forward. However, it cannot continue to take so ludicrously long to get men what they need.

“If the newly reformed drug appraisal process really is to work better for men, manufacturers must present best value for money first time around while greater flexibility from NICE must come as standard. We need to see much more focus on what patients need and deserve, otherwise men will men will lose out as they continue to be caught in the middle.”

The consultation on the reforms to the drug appraisal process proposed by NHS England closed last month. The new reforms were approved by NICE on 16 March 2016 to be implemented on the 1 April 2016.