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Patients lose out as prostate cancer drug is turned down by SMC

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by Cancer Research UK | News

12 March 2012

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Cancer Research UK is extremely disappointed that the advanced prostate cancer drug, abiraterone, has been ruled too expensive for routine use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

SMC has said today that although abiraterone is clinically effective, it is not good value for money for the NHS at the high price set by the manufacturer, Janssen.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said: “Abiraterone is an important treatment because patients and doctors value the extra months of life it can give if prostate cancer has come back after chemotherapy.  

“We need to find a way for it to be routinely available through the NHS. At the moment it is too expensive and the SMC must find a better way to ensure drugs that are proven to be effective for patients get approved.”

There are no other treatment options for men with advanced prostate cancer that has come back after chemotherapy.

Abiraterone will now only be available in Scotland through Individual Patient Treatment Requests or as part of a clinical trial.  

In England, some patients will be able to access abiraterone through the Cancer Drugs Fund until a final decision is made by NICE. But the Fund is only available until 2014, and there is no equivalent in Scotland.

The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group approved the routine use of abiraterone after using the End of Life criteria*. The drug is available in Wales until the final NICE decision.  

Dr Kumar continued: “We’re hugely frustrated that Janssen couldn’t offer the SMC a price they felt was good value for money. Generous public donations to Cancer Research UK and other organisations paid for the initial development of the drug and we feel extremely let down that the drug’s manufacturer couldn’t offer SMC a price they could agree on.

“We hope a revised offer from the manufacturer will result in the drug being available to patients who desperately need it.”


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.