YOUR report (13 March) on the decision of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) to reject the use of abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) as “not economic” mentioned the drug’s potential to prolong life, but what also should be stressed is that the drug has the capacity to improve the quality of a patient’s life.
The SMC decision will hardly bring comfort to the one in 12 men who will be affected by prostate cancer in Scotland, the most common cancer in men in whole of the UK and the second-most common cancer death behind lung cancer.
As your report correctly points out, the decision leaves Scotland out on a limb. The Welsh have given their approval for its current use, England may yet have to make a final decision, but the drug can still be accessed via its local Cancer Drugs Fund. Abiraterone acetate was developed with excellent research input by the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, hence the greatest irony that one of the few men with Scottish connections who has benefited from its use is the Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.
The Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group spent many hours over Christmas preparing to meet an early January submission deadline set by the SMC on this topic. We were promised that a copy of the final SMC detailed advice document would be sent to us on publication day, but nothing arrived. This lack of response says everything about how men’s health issues are regarded in Scotland. In the words of one of our members: “I have now got to live with two death sentences. The first – advanced metastacised terminal prostate cancer – and now the decision not to approve the release of abiraterone on cost grounds. What price a human life?”
Chairman, Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group