The advanced prostate cancer drug, abiraterone, has been approved for use in NHS Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
The drug, which has been credited with helping to extend the life of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, had initially been ruled out by the SMC for use in NHS Scotland on account of expense. However, the medicines watchdog has today accepted abiraterone for restricted use in NHS Scotland following a successful resubmission by the manufacturer.
Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive, Cancer Research UK, today expressed his “delight” that abiraterone will be made available for men whose cancer carries on growing after or during treatment with chemotherapy.
“This decision is an extremely important one for patients and their families because there are no other treatments available for men with this type of cancer.
“We know abiraterone is an effective drug. Although it’s not a cure, it can offer men crucial extra months at the end of their lives, which can feel priceless to them and their loved ones.”
Cancer Research UK was involved in developing the drug, and so Kumar says it is “gratifying” to see it now available for routine use in Scotland. However, he added that it has taken the SMC “far too long to come to the right decision” and urged them to consider “a more efficient way of fast tracking resubmissions.”
The Scottish medicines watchdog had come under renewed pressure to approve the drug earlier this month when Northern Ireland became the third country in the UK to allow access. At the time Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, spoke of the charity’s “dismay that Scotland remains out on a limb as the only country in the UK where men with incurable prostate cancer continue to be routinely denied access to abiraterone on the NHS.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said he was “glad the SMC has finally seen sense on this issue” but called it an “injustice” that it hasn’t been available before now.
He said: “This drug – which was used to keep the Lockerbie bomber alive so successfully – should have been available long before now.
“It has been an injustice that Scottish men have been the only ones in the UK not to have had access to this.
“That wouldn’t have been so bad if the SNP dropped its opposition to a Cancer Drugs Fund, which would have at least made Abiraterone available through those means.
“Sufferers of other cancers are still in this predicament, and a £10 million fund similar to that which exists in England would make a huge difference to so many lives.
The SMC advice note on abiraterone is available here: http://www.scottishmedicines.org.uk/SMC_Advice/Advice/764_12_abiraterone_Zytiga/Briefing_Note_abiraterone_Zytiga_Resubmission