- Patients in England and NI are only eligible for the drug once cancer has spread
Trials have found abiraterone can stop prostate cancer from spreading and it can extend the lives of those with the disease.
Patients in Scotland and Wales can get the drug for free on the NHS if there is a high risk of the cancer spreading, but men in England or Northern Ireland are only eligible once it has spread.
Until then they have to pay around £250 a month for a private prescription or go without – leaving them at greater risk of death.
A clinical trial found men given two years of abiraterone were half as likely to die from prostate cancer within six years (stock image)
A spokesman for Prostate Cancer UK called for the drug to be made available across the country. Prostate cancer is the most common among men, with 52,000 diagnosed in Britain each year.
A clinical trial found men given two years of abiraterone were half as likely to die from prostate cancer within six years, compared with men on current standard treatments. It also reduced the risk of the disease spreading – or death – by 47 per cent.
The postcode lottery started because the patent for abiraterone expired in October 2022, meaning that it is now available at a fraction of the cost.
In Scotland and Wales a mechanism is in place to swiftly review and introduce such treatments, Prostate Cancer UK revealed – but there is no such system in England and Northern Ireland.
The Mail has been campaigning for decades for improved prognosis and treatments to bring the disease in line with breast cancer.
Amy Rylance, of Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘It is unacceptable that men in parts of the UK are missing out on this cheap treatment option that we know saves and extends lives.’
Professor Nick James, from the Institute of Cancer Research, where the drug was developed, said: ‘It’s very frustrating because this treatment is standard in most of mainland Europe and the US.’