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NICE gives prostate cancer drug green light

NICE gives prostate cancer drug green light
23rd March 2016

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has given approval to a prostate cancer drug it had previously refused.

When it was initially submitted, the government-run body didn't think it was cost-effective enough to be offered on the NHS. NICE was also concerned that the drug's ability to improve quality of life and long-term survival for patients had not been proven.

The manufacturers of the drug then provided evidence from the US, where it had been tested on patients. This, and negotiating the price of the drug, was enough to persuade NICE to recommend it for use on the NHS.

Abiraterone, also called Zytiga, is intended for patients who have had chemotherapy, but the treatment hasn't been successful, resulting in them requiring end-of-life care. However, the impact of it on people with early-stage prostate cancer is unknown.

As it is a hormone therapy, the drug is able to stop testosterone from reaching the prostate gland, slowing down the progression of the tumour.

Now, NICE has recommended that it should be offered to patients with prostate cancer who only display mild symptoms, but for whom the disease is spreading. They will be eligible if they have already tried androgen deprivation therapy, but have not yet started chemotherapy.

It is estimated that around 5,900 people could be eligible for abiraterone each year in England. The NHS in Wales could also adopt the new guidance, meaning even more people could benefit from the new treatment.

Heather Blake, from Prostate Cancer UK, 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."

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