By Bob Duncan
The SNP have criticised a leading Tory in Scotland for distributing leaflets which they claim are deliberately misleading people about the availability of Abiraterone, a new treatment for prostate cancer.
The drug was one of a number which were said to have helped keep Abdelbaset al-Megrahi alive when he returned to Libya. Until now, Scotland was the only part of the UK where it was not yet available on the NHS.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) had previously rejected a submission to allow the drug to be used in Scotland on the grounds that the cost – some £3,000 a month – did not justify the health benefits.
However, the manufacturer Janssen resubmitted its application and the SMC has now given doctors the green light to prescribe it.
Welcoming the SMC’s decision, Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re delighted that the SMC has made abiraterone available for men whose cancer carries on growing after or during treatment with chemotherapy.
“This decision is an extremely important one for patients and their families because there are no other treatments available for men with this type of cancer.
“We know abiraterone is an effective drug. Although it’s not a cure, it can offer men crucial extra months at the end of their lives, which can feel priceless to them and their loved ones.”
Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Owen Sharp said: “Today brings a victory for both decency and common sense. Abiraterone has now been approved for use on the NHS UK-wide and I thank and congratulate everyone who backed us and helped us achieve this result.”
Despite this, Jackson Carlaw MSP, the Tory Health Spokesperson, issued leaflets in Largs this week – days after the drug’s approval, stating:
“The Scottish Medicines Consortium, the body the Scottish Government use to approve new medicines, refused to allow the first new treatment for prostate cancer, Abiraterone to be prescribed to patients in Scotland through the NHS.
“So a prostate sufferer north of the border will not be able to access this drug, in the way that a sufferer in England and Wales can.
“By living in my West of Scotland constituency, so in Arran, Bearsden, or Eastwood those with prostate cancer are denied access to a drug which has been shown to extend and improve the quality of life.”
Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, which covers Largs, said: “This is truly irresponsible stuff from the Tories, who are attempting to mislead people and undermine the NHS in Scotland for their own petty gains.
“Mr Carlaw must have known weeks ago that this drug was going back for approval in August, yet chose to make this a central part of his leaflet.
“Thank goodness Scotland’s National Health Service is already effectively independent and safe from the steady privatisation of healthcare being carried out by Mr Carlaw’s Tory colleagues south of the border.
“The Tories’ unpopularity in Scotland is continually reflected at the polls and no wonder frankly.
“Jackson Carlaw should withdraw this leaflet immediately and apologise for any unnecessary distress that this misinformation has caused.”