Officials have ruled that the NHS cannot use a life-extending drug for prostate cancer because it is not financially viable.

  • Olaparib, the drug that prolongs life and fights prostate cancer has been declined for NHS use
  • The product is permitted for use in Scotland, but it will not be sold in England or Wales.
  • The evidence supporting the claims of Olaparib’s benefits is not clear, according to a clinical watchdog.

After officials determined that the drug, which can prolong the life of prostate cancer patients by extending their lives, isn’t worth the cost to the NHS, it was rejected.

The innovative drug is the first ‘precision treatment’ for the disease, which treats men based on the genetic make-up of their cancer.

The product has already been approved by the Scottish government, but it will not be sold to males in England and Wales.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), stated that there was no reliable evidence to support the claims of olaparib and it wouldn’t be wise for NHS funding to approve such a decision.

The drug has a list price of £2,317.50 per pack of 56 tablets – enough for 14 days use – and an average course of treatment costs £37,491.

Roughly 50,000 men in the UK each year are diagnosed with cancer of the prostate ¿ a gland found just below the bladder. Eight in ten survive a decade or more. Pictured: Stock image

Roughly 50,000 men in the UK each year are diagnosed with cancer of the prostate – a gland found just below the bladder. A staggering eight in ten men live for a minimum of ten years. Photo: Stock image

The 2019 PROfound trial found that men treated with olaparib lived 7.4 months before their cancer progressed, compared with 3.6 months when they received ‘one size fits all’ hormonal treatments. 

Dr Matthew Hobbs, of Prostate Cancer UK, said the charity was ‘extremely disappointed’ but was working with Nice on the issues raised.

Johann De Bono, professor of experimental cancer medicine at the ICR and leader of the PROfound trial, said: ‘Olaparib is a precision drug that can extend life for men with some mutations in their tumours while sparing them the side-effects of chemotherapy.

‘I was delighted when olaparib was approved for NHS patients in Scotland earlier this year – and it’s disappointing that this decision means their counterparts in England and Wales will miss out on such a valuable new treatment option.

‘It’s an example of the barriers that exist to making innovative drugs available at prices that the NHS can afford and is going to result in postcode prescribing across the UK.’

Nice looks at patients who were already receiving treatment using the hormone therapies, abiraterone/enzalutamide.

For prostate cancer which has advanced and is not responding to hormonal therapy, chemotherapy with docetaxel (cabazitaxel) or radionum-223 dichloride is the current treatment.

Nice explained that clinical trials have shown that people who are treated with olaparib live for longer periods of time and their diseases will not get worse than people receiving retreatment using enzalutamide, abiraterone, or abiraterone.

The NHS does not recommend retreating with enzalutamide, abiraterone, or any other form of enzalutamide.

Nice said that it was not clear how effective Olaparib was compared to docetaxel or cabazitaxel and radium-223 Dichloride, as there are no direct evidence of the drugs being comparable.

The watchdog stated that an indirect comparison shows that people with docetaxel have a longer life expectancy than those who had cabazitaxel. However, this was not confirmed.

Prostate Cancer UK worries that Nice reviewed the same evidence and the Scottish Medicine Consortium has come up with a different conclusion.

It is important to consider the uncertainties inherent in new treatment development, as this could lead to other unanticipated delays in future treatments.