Cancer Research UK has urged NICE to consider its decision on Janssen’s Zytiga (abiraterone) for the treatment of castration-resistant metastatic prostate cancer.
NICE has issued draft guidance not recommending the use of the treatment in combination with prednisone or prednisolone after deeming it to be too expensive to use on the NHS.
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Clinician, says the decision “makes no sense” after the treatment has been shown it can extend the lives of patients by more than three months.
A Patient Access Scheme has been agreed between the Department of Health and Janssen. But, even with this in place, it was not deemed to be a cost effective use of NHS resources.
NICE also said Zytiga did not meet the criteria to be considered under the special arrangements for drugs treating people at the end of their life as the population for which it is licensed can’t be considered small enough.
Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, says the Institute is “disappointed” not to recommend the treatment for use. “It is an expensive drug and the independent advisory committee that made this decision did not feel the drug provided enough benefit to patients to justify the price the NHS is being asked to pay, even with the discount that the manufacturer has offered,” he said.
Cancer Research UK said that Zytiga has been one of the most requested treatments from the Cancer Drugs Fund due to the value placed upon it by patients and doctors. The charity helped discover Zytiga through its research and will receive royalties if it is used. Royalties, it says, which will then be reinvested into further cancer research.
Professor Johnson believes a way must be found for it, and other expensive treatments, to be made available to patients on the NHS. “At the moment it is too expensive and NICE must find a better way to ensure drugs that are already working for patients get approved,” he added.
Dr Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive at Cancer Research UK, said the charity was “hugely frustrated” that Zytiga was deemed not to offer value for money. “We feel extremely let down that the drug’s manufacturer couldn’t offer NICE a price they could agree on,” he said.
“NICE should take another look at the way they have reviewed the cost effectiveness of abiraterone. We hope this, and a revised offer from the manufacturer, will result in the drug being available to patients who desperately need it.”