Abiraterone has been made available on the NHS in Scotland for men with advanced prostate cancer before treatment with chemotherapy, following a decision announced this week by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
Abiraterone, which was discovered at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is used as standard treatment for prostate cancer after chemotherapy and has extended the lives of thousands of men in the UK, with fewer side-effects than chemotherapy. But until now, it was not available routinely on the NHS for patients before chemotherapy – only through the Cancer Drugs Fund in England.
In February this year, the Scottish Medicines Consortium announced a decision not to recommend abiraterone in patients who were yet to receive chemotherapy, saying it would not be cost-effective.
The manufacturer Janssen challenged the decision, and it went for formal review as part of the SMC appeal process. The review panel has now overturned the decision and abiraterone will be made available in Scotland for men before chemotherapy.
The announcement comes as NICE discusses access to abiraterone in England and Wales.
In England, NICE had suspended its equivalent appraisal of abiraterone after initially rejecting it, to allow discussion on price between Janssen and the Department of Health. Following these discussions, NICE has now reopened its appraisal of abiraterone.
Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “It is fantastic that the Scottish Medicines Consortium has reversed its earlier judgement and decided to make abiraterone available earlier in the course of treatment. This is a drug that is proven to extend life and improve quality of life, so it is great that Scottish men will now be getting the drug earlier, and that some who had been denied it altogether will now be able to receive it.
“But what’s excellent news for Scotland will only reinforce the frustration for patients in England and Wales, who continue to be denied abiraterone until they have first gone through chemotherapy. We want to see NICE follow the lead of Scotland so that this highly innovative drug – which was discovered here at the ICR – can be made available for all men with prostate cancer in every part of the UK.”