Health minister urgently needed to direct availability of vital prostate cancer drug, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said there is no time to lose in appointing a health minister if we’re to ensure there is no further lag on guaranteeing treatments are available in Northern Ireland on the same basis as in neighbouring jurisdictions.

Health Paula Bradshaw

The latest example is the drug Abiraterone, used to help stop prostate cancer spreading to other parts of the body, which is now available soon after diagnosis in Scotland and Wales.


The South Belfast MLA has said: "Abiraterone used to be recommended for use only in the late stages of prostate cancer, but a trial last year demonstrated its efficacy for a group of men with earlier stage tumours, lowering testosterone production and thus restricting the growth of the cancer.


"As a result, the drug was first made available privately, and it is now available on the NHS in Scotland and Wales. However, men in Northern Ireland continue to be restricted to paying for it privately, at a cost typically of around £3000/year.


"There are some holding up the restoration of the Executive and the appointment of a health minister precisely because, they claim, Northern Ireland must be treated like other jurisdictions of the UK. Yet here is a classic example of how not having an Executive and an Assembly makes Northern Ireland the laggard. It is indisputable that men in Northern Ireland with prostate cancer should have access to treatment on the same basis as in Scotland and Wales.


"In the meantime, I have written to the Permanent Secretary to emphasise that use of this drug is entirely consistent with the Bengoa principles of cost-effective earlier intervention. Preparations should therefore be made for its imminent introduction in Northern Ireland."