This site is intended for health professionals only

Prostate cancer drug 'too expensive' for NHS

A 'clinically effective' prostate cancer drug is too expensive for use in the NHS, a drugs watchdog has ruled. Cancer Research UK claim the ruling “makes no sense”.

Draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has declared cancer drug abiraterone, while clinically effective, is not cost-effective enough to receive a recommendation for use in the NHS.

Abiraterone can increase the amount of time a man with advanced prostate cancer has left to live by an average of around four months.

The only other drug available on the NHS that has been proven to extend survival has “severe side effects” and is shown to be effective in “fewer men”.

“Quite simply, abiraterone prolongs the life of men with incurable prostate cancer,” said Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity.

“This draft decision is a bitter blow to thousands of men and their families - and must be overturned. The drug is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease for many years, and it will be devastating if this drug remains out of their reach when they need it the most.”

The NHS drugs watchdog's review found 3300 men were eligible for abiraterone in 2011. NICE said the drug “was not licensed for a small population” and as such, failed to meet the criteria for an end-of life treatment.

Question: Do you agree with the decision made by NICE?