Cancer Research UK welcomes the news that the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) has made prostate cancer drug abiraterone available on the NHS, paving the way for NICE to make a positive ruling when they publish their final guidance in May.
Earlier this month after a preliminary review, NICE announced the drug – developed by Cancer Research UK and others – would not be routinely offered on the NHS because the manufacturer, Janssen, had set the price too high.
NICE also said the drug did not meet the End of Life criteria, which would have meant less stringent rules over cost applied.
The AWMSG were able to approve abiraterone after assessing it as an End of Life drug. The drug will now be available on the NHS in Wales until NICE release their final guidance, which will override the AWMSG decision if abiraterone is rejected.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “We’re pleased that the AWMSG and the drug’s manufacturer, Janssen, have agreed a price that makes abiraterone available for men in Wales who need it. But this is only guaranteed to happen for a few months until NICE release their final guidance.
“Abiraterone is an effective drug for men who have advanced prostate cancer that has come back after chemotherapy. Patients and doctors have found it valuable since it has been available via the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, but there is a strong case for it to be routinely funded by the NHS.
“We want Janssen to lower the price of abiraterone and NICE to take another look at the way they assessed its cost effectiveness.
“The AWMSG were able to approve the drug because they used the End of Life criteria. This shows that if NICE use these criteria, they could negotiate a price that makes abiraterone cost effective for the NHS.
“We hope the right decision will be made, and quickly, so that all men with this form of the disease will be offered vital extra months of life, regardless of where they live.”
For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
NICE did not use the End of Life criteria because they said the number of men who would get the drug after chemotherapy was not a “small population”. Cancer Research UK clinicians believe that the number of men receiving abiraterone after chemotherapy each year would be a “small population”.
Abiraterone was discovered at The Institute for Cancer Research supported by grants from Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and BTG International LTD. Subsequent patient trials and further research on abiraterone was supported by Cougar Biotechnology Inc. / Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, Cancer Research UK, Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, the MRC, BTG International Ltd, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer Research Foundation, The Prostate Cancer Charity, the ICR and The Royal Marsden. Cancer Research Technology assigned abiraterone acetate to BTG International Ltd, who in turn licensed it to Ortho Biotech Oncology Research & Development, a unit of Cougar Biotechnology Inc., now a member of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.