No access to prostate cancer drug abiraterone for Scottish patients

Prostate cancer cell Abiraterone has been shown to extend life for more than three months

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Patients with advanced prostate cancer in Scotland will not get access to a new drug which can extend their lives by more than three months.

Abiraterone, which costs £3,000 a month, had already been provisionally rejected for use in England and Wales.

However, advisers in Wales have approved its use on an interim basis until a final decision is made.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium said the cost of the drug did not justify the health benefits.

Abiraterone is not a cure for prostate cancer, but it can give some men extra time with their families.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect men and the second most common cause of death.

The new drug is one of a handful of new treatments rumoured to have been used to prolong the life of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, although none of these rumours have ever been confirmed.

'Extra months'

Cancer Research UK has criticised the decision.

Its chief executive, Dr Harpal Kumar, 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."

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

The medicines watchdog for England and Wales, NICE, decided the drug did not justify the price tag in its provisional judgement.

Last month the Welsh government confirmed that the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) had approved the use of abiraterone.

The government said it would take into consideration NICE's final guidance when published.

Individual applications to be prescribed Abiraterone can be made.

The Scottish government said NHS boards have arrangements at local level for consideration of SMC "not recommended" medicines for individual patients in certain circumstances.

Some have said the NHS should provide the best treatments and catch up with survival rates in other countries.

However, others believe that pharmaceutical firms are over-charging and they should reduce their prices.

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