Prostate cancer drug abiraterone 'too expensive' to use on terminally-ill patients

Terminally ill patients in England will be denied early access

Health Correspondent

Thousands of terminally ill prostate cancer patients in England will be denied early access to a drug which can both extend life and reduce pain, after the medicines watchdog ruled it would be too expensive for the NHS – the second such decision in as many weeks.

Abiraterone, a drug for advanced prostate cancer which can extend life by an average of four months, is available on the NHS to men who have already undergone chemotherapy for their condition. Charities and patient groups had hoped that it would also be approved for use before chemotherapy – delaying the time at which men would have to undergo the painful, last resort treatment.

Prostate Cancer UK said that the decision, announced in final draft guidance, was a “fiasco” and a “kick in the teeth” for men with advanced prostate cancer. Blaming “inflexible Nice processes” and “the drug company’s inability to produce all the requested data”, the charity warned that the system of recommending end-of-life cancer drugs in England was now “not fit for purpose”. 

Nice’s decision comes just a week after it decided not to recommend the breast cancer drug Kadcyla for cost reasons.

Sir Andrew Dillon, Nice’s chief executive, said he was disappointed not to be able to recommend the drug as a way to delay chemotherapy, but added that “the manufacturer's own economic model demonstrated that the drug does not offer enough benefit to justify its price”.

Video: 'I checked purely by accident' - Prostate cancer

Clinical evidence supplied to Nice by the manufacturer, the Belgian pharmaceutical firm Janssen, came from only one study. The cost of the drug to the NHS would have been £2,930 per patient per month. Prostate Cancer UK said it could delay a patient having to undergo chemotherapy by more than two years.

Janssen said yesterday it was “extremely disappointed” by Nice’s decision.

“If it stands, [this] will leave thousands of men in England in the advanced stages of prostate cancer with no option but to accept chemotherapy – which they may not necessarily need or want yet,” said the firm’s medical director Dr Peter Barnes.

Abiraterone is already available pre-chemotherapy through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but only on a case-by-case basis, and only in England. The Scottish Medicines Consortium is due to consider its use before chemotherapy next year.

Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said that it was patients that were bearing the brunt of a “flawed” system.

“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,” he said.

Case study: “I’ve been very lucky to survive"

Mike Sawkins, 58, from Bordon, Hampshire, was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer six years ago.

“I’ve been very lucky to survive quite a long time. In March last year my consultant at St Luke’s Cancer Centre at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford said we should try to get me on abiraterone [before chemotherapy] through the Cancer Drugs Fund. We were successful and I’ve been on it since the end of March 2013. It’s worked. I’ve been very lucky and it’s given me time. I’m still working full time – it allows me to do that and I intend to carry on for as long as I can.

I’m productive, still a full-blown taxpayer. It’s allowed me to carry on and we’ll see where we go from there. It has helped with the pain – which hasn’t got any worse than it was. I don’t have any major problems to stop me doing things. With chemotherapy, you never know how you’ll be with it. You could be somewhere between fine and a total wreck. If there’s something else that allows you to continue working and enjoying life as best you can, that’s preferable. It’s hard to know how to put a value on that time.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us