Access to abiraterone

Abiraterone has now been approved for use on the NHS throughout the UK for men who have previously had chemotherapy.

We're delighted that abiraterone will now be available to men regardless of where they live in the UK. Initially the drug was rejected for use on the NHS, but in 2012 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reversed its draft decision for England and Wales, the Health Department in Northern Ireland endorsed this decision, and the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) followed suit.

This is great news for men with advanced prostate cancer and a major victory for Prostate Cancer UK's campaign.

Thank you to all our supporters, men with prostate cancer and their families, health professionals and politicians who helped with this campaign.


What is abiraterone?

Abiraterone is a new type of hormone therapy for men with advanced prostate cancer that has stopped responding to other hormone therapy and chemotherapy treatments.


Our position on abiraterone

Studies on abiraterone show that it can prolong the life of men in the final stages of prostate cancer by an average of about 4 months, [1] and improve the quality of their lives.

We believe that the drug is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease for many years. It offers men the possibility of extending and improving the quality of their lives at a time when there are no other available treatment options, except those that just control the symptoms of the disease.

We are delighted that abiraterone is now available on the NHS across the UK following the SMC's recent decision. This comes after NICE's decision to approve abiraterone for routine use on the NHS in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland's decision to follow suit. We urge health providers in all four countries to waste no time in putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure men with advanced prostate cancer can access this drug without delay.

[1] Abiraterone and Increased Survival in Metastatic Prostate Cancer. Johann S. De Bono, et.al The New England Journal of Medicine Vol 364 No 21 May 2011


When does NICE's decision come into effect?

NICE published its final guidance on abiraterone on 27 June 2012. Primary Care Trusts in England and Health Boards in Wales now have 3 months to implement the guidance and routinely fund abiraterone.

At the moment, abiraterone is available to men in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund. PCTs will need to start funding abiraterone by the end of September. We want to make sure they do this so that men have uninterrupted access to this vital drug.

To make sure this happens, we have written to every PCT in England to ask them what transitional arrangements they've put in place to start funding abiraterone as soon as possible.

Health Boards in Wales are already funding abiraterone through a patient access scheme and should continue to do so.


When does the SMC's decision come into effect?

Following the SMC's decision to approve abiraterone for use on the NHS, it should be available in Scotland by the middle of October 2012.


What's happening in Northern Ireland?

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland has endorsed NICE's decision to approve abiraterone. This means that the drug will be made available to men on the NHS in Northern Ireland.


Campaign publicity

Les Ferdinand, who supported our campaign in The Sun, said: "Today's decision is a true victory for men with prostate cancer and I am proud to have played my part in this triumph. Together we stood up for a man's right to live without pain, and together we made sure they can have access to this drug which simply allows them to live a longer and better life. Now the thousands of men - just like my granddad - who are struck down by prostate cancer every year will be able to enjoy today's glory for many years to come."

Our comment has also been picked up in the media here:

ITV News - Charity: Prostate cancer drug allows improved life quality at difficult time

Scottish Sunday Express - NHS ban on pill to treat prostate cancer is lifted

The Daily Telegraph - Nice 'to reverse ban on prostate cancer drug'

The Guardian - Prostate cancer: health watchdog reverses NHS guidance on drug

BBC Online - Prostate drug abiraterone 'set for NHS use'

Telegraph blogs - A welcome U-turn on prostate cancer drugs from NICE - but is the drug-rationing body accountable enough?

Boots Web MD - Prostate cancer drug U-turn welcomed

Health Care Today - NICE set to reverse decision on prostate cancer drug

Mature Times - The Prostate Cancer Charity welcomes NICE turnaround on breakthrough treatment but warns campaign is far from over

Huffington Post - Nice Recommend NHS Prescribe Prostate Cancer Pill (Zytiga)

InPharm - NICE is recommending Janssen's prostate cancer pill Zytiga, reversing its previous stance

The Scotsman - Lockerbie bomber's cancer drug is approved in England

The Herald - New calls for Megrahi drug on Scots NHS


Having trouble getting abiraterone?

We would like to hear from you if your doctor thinks you should have abiraterone but you are unable to get it paid for by the NHS. Email your story to the Policy and Campaigns team at campaigns@prostatecanceruk.org or call 020 8222 7622.