Advanced prostate cancer sufferers could be given a “game changing” drug after NICE was forced to review a previous decision.
The watchdog had previously said that abiraterone should not be offered to patients who have recently been diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer because it was not as cost-effective as chemotherapy.
However an appeal panel today (October 29) upheld a string of complaints which came from the drug’s manufacturer Janssen, prostate cancer specialists and charities.
The panel found that the NICE committee had not taken into account all available evidence, and said it had been “unreasonable” in not considering the impact on patients who for various reasons are often unable to have chemotherapy.
Data from the STAMPEDE clinical trial has found that abiraterone as a first-line treatment is able to extend the amount of time that men live for without their disease coming back.
More recent findings from the trial showed that among those with advanced disease, the average survival gain from the drug is two to three years.
Charities had criticised the previous ruling on the grounds that those in the late stages of prostate cancer would lose out on this extra time as they cannot tolerate chemotherapy, which can have toxic side effects.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) welcomed the about-turn, and said the drug is a “targeted treatment that attacks cancer cells, rather than indiscriminately”.
It added that abiraterone offered “important benefits” for patients during the Covid-19 pandemic, as it can be taken as a tablet at home in order to avoid hospital visits for chemotherapy.
“Around 7000 men are diagnosed each year with metastatic or advanced prostate cancer,” said Professor Nick James from the ICR.
“At present around one quarter get docetaxel chemotherapy and all of these would probably be better treated with abiraterone.
“Of the remaining three quarters, probably at least half could benefit from abiraterone as well, the remaining quarter being too old or unfit to get much benefit.”
Abiraterone has also been shown to halve the risk of serious complications that can result from other types of therapy, such as bone fractures and spinal problems.