Durkan: Expansion of prostate cancer drug abiraterone could save lives

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SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has called for the expansion of prostate cancer drug abiraterone which is more widely available to patients in Scotland and Wales.

Currently in England and Northern Ireland the life-extending hormone therapy treatment is only recommended for use in adults in advanced stages of prostate cancer.

The Foyle MLA said: “In Northern Ireland, around 1300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year with 280 of those dying from the disease. And while abiraterone is not a cure, it is effective in preventing prostate cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Yet access for patients here is restricted compared to other UK regions.

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“Cancer awareness campaigns stress the importance of securing an early diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows patients to have the best fighting chance for successful treatment and survival. In the same vein, early access to specific forms treatment could improve outcomes for thousands of individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

Mark H. DurkanMark H. Durkan
Mark H. Durkan

Mr. Durkan said it was unacceptable that patients here are not afforded the same access available to men in Scotland and Wales.

"While patients can pay for the drug privately in some instances it’s costing between £1000-£2000 per month. Those ludicrous costs will be beyond the financial means of most.

“I’m disappointed that the Department of Health state there is currently no flexibility to allow Northern Ireland to make a bespoke determination for patients here, not just in terms of abiraterone use but a wide range of medical treatments. That would require establishing a health technology assessment body for NI, a provision which I’m currently looking in to.”