UK to fund prostate cancer drug in U-turn

UK drug watchdog, The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has reversed a previous decision which was not to fund a new prostate cancer drug developed in the country after Johnson & Johnson, the maker agreed a new discount on supplies to the National Healthcare Service. The rejection of the drug in February on cost grounds drew severe criticism from Cancer Research UK, a charity that supported research into the drug.

Zytiga, which is known chemically as abiraterone, was approved last year in Europe and the US to treat advanced prostate cancer in patients who previously received chemotherapy. The drug was developed by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research and London’s Royal Marsden Hospital. British pharmaceutical firm BTG is entitled to receive royalty payments on the drug. The drug has a list price of £2930 for a month’s supply of 120 tablets according to NICE.

Andrew Dillon Chief Executive of NICE said, “We are very pleased that Janssen’s submission to our consultation means we are able to produce draft guidance recommending abiraterone – it is an effective treatment, potentially extending life by more than three months, and it also allows patients to be treated at home as it can be taken orally.”

Head of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar said, “This is wonderful news for patients with advanced prostate cancer and, in part, this U-turn is down to the public’s disappointment at the initial refusal.”

Alan Ashworth, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, also appreciated the decision by saying, “We are very pleased and proud that a drug we discovered will now be available to help many more people than before. This success highlights the important role that not-for-profit organisations can make in drug discovery and development.”

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