A drug that can give advanced prostate cancer sufferers an extra two months to live has been rejected by the NHS’s rationing body. The National Institute for Curbing Expenditure (Nice) said that the medicine, called cabazitaxel, was not a cost-effective treatment for men who have already undergone hormone therapy.
It said that although the drug did extend survival for patients with advanced prostate cancer, it was “concerned” about the side-effects experienced in clinical trials and that at an average cost of £22,000 per patient it was too expensive.
The move comes after an important study commissioned by The Lancet Oncology warned that the cost of cancer care is becoming unsustainable in developed countries, and that it makes no sense to keep giving “toxic” and costly drugs to patients with just a few weeks to live.
Sir Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of Nice, said: “The committee concluded that cabazitaxel would not be a cost effective use of limited NHS resources.”
But Owen Sharp, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: “Cabazitaxel is an important treatment, only recently licensed for use here in the UK, which can help to extend the lives of men in the final stages of prostate cancer for whom existing treatments have stopped working.
“These men currently have very few treatment options open to them when their cancer reaches this advanced stage. Increasing the number of treatments that may extend the lives of these men and allow them to spend precious time with their families is essential.”
Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease among British men, with 37,000 cases diagnosed every year.
Some men live for years with slow-growing tumours, but in other cases it develops aggressively and kills after spreading to other organs.
Treatments often attempt to reduce the production of testosterone, a hormone that fuels the growth of the tumours, but patients can develop resistance to this type of therapy.
In clinical trials, men with advanced prostate cancer who were given cabazitaxel in combination with prednisone, a drug that suppresses the immune system, lived for an extra 10 weeks.
But Nice said there was “uncertainty” about the new drug’s effect on patients’ hearts and livers, and it did not meet its criteria for being considered as an end-of-life drug worthy of additional funding.
It means that anyone who hopes to obtain the new type of chemotherapy on the NHS must make an individual application through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Nice is still assessing the value of a daily pill that can treat advanced prostate cancer, called abiraterone acetate, which is believed to have kept the Lockerbie bomber alive longer than expected.