SMC turns down prostate cancer drug

 The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has failed to recommend a drug than can prolong the life of sufferers from prostate cancer by three months.

The decision follows provisional NICE guidance not recommending Zytiga (abiraterone) from Johnson & Johnson.

Both authorities determined that the drug’s benefits did not justify its high cost.

Zytiga has been shown to prolong life by up to three months in men with advanced prostate cancer, at a cost of £3,000 a month.

One of Zytiga’s benefits is that it can be taken orally by the patient at home.

The drug will only be available in Scotland through Individual Patient Treatment Requests – a system that makes non-recommended medicines available to individual patients in certain circumstances.

Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of 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. The SMC must find a better way to ensure drugs that are proven to be effective for patients get approved.”

Following NICE’s provisional guidance in February, health authorities in Wales have approved the use of Zytiga on an interim basis before the final decision.

Cancer Research UK commented that Zytiga should be made available for end of life care, while The Prostate Cancer Charity said the provisional NICE decision “must be overturned”.

Until the final NICE guidance appears, Zytiga can still be approved locally for prescription in England.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the UK, where it causes 10,000 deaths each year.