A CHARITY is calling for a prostate cancer drug to be given out on the NHS after Scotland became the only part of the UK where it is not available.
Abiraterone can extend the lives of late-stage cancer sufferers by four months on average, and was credited with keeping Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi alive for far longer than expected.
The drug has previously been approved for use in England and Wales, with Northern Ireland also giving it the green light yesterday.
But in March, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), which decides which drugs should be offered on the NHS and issues advice to health boards about newly licensed medicines, deemed the drug too expensive for use on the NHS.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “News that abiraterone has been approved for use in the NHS in England, Wales and now Northern Ireland represents a resounding triumph for the thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer who campaigned long and hard for its availability.
“However, our delight for men in these countries is matched only by our dismay that Scotland remains the only country in the UK where men with incurable prostate cancer continue to be routinely denied access to it on the NHS.
“Abiraterone can significantly reduce pain and other symptoms as well as extend life by an average of four months. Such outcomes are just as invaluable to men in Scotland as they are to men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
The charity said 2,700 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Scotland, with 19,000 currently living with the disease.
The company behind the drug resubmitted it to the SMC in May and the body is due to publish its decision in August. Currently, patients in Scotland can only get the drug privately, through clinical trials or case-by-case approval.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome the company’s decision to resubmit to the SMC.
“The Scottish Government has already issued guidance to help health boards make consistent and transparent decisions about newly licensed medicines. This guidance includes advice about making drugs available for individual patients even if they are not recommended for general use.
“These arrangements are intended to ensure patients in all parts of Scotland are able to access newly licensed medicines in accordance with clinical need.”