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  • Writer's pictureDonal McMahon (Local Democracy Reporter)

NI could lose out on prostate cancer wonder drug

Minister of State Steve Baker MP

Minister of State Steve Baker MP

Prostate cancer patients in Northern Ireland are likely to be the only UK region to miss out on a life-extending drug unless the Stormont Executive is re-formed.

Minister of State Steve Baker MP, in a letter responding to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s (NMDDC) concerns, placed the responsibility of providing the wonder drug with the Executive.

UK patients in Scotland and Wales already have wider access to ‘Abiraterone’ which can help stop prostate cancer spreading to other parts of the body.NHS England has said it would review the drug’s use for more men in 2024.

On behalf of the NI Secretary of State (SoS), Mr Baker’s letter, which will be presented to council next week, reads:

“The SoS completely understands the very real concerns patients and staff across the healthcare system in Northern Ireland have, and recognises the seriousness of the specific concerns you are raising regarding the availability of this prostate cancer drug in Northern Ireland.

“The healthcare system in NI is facing severe pressure across the board and this is something that the SoS is acutely aware of through his engagements with various stakeholders in NI. I am clear this is not a sustainable situation.”

Statistics from Prostate Cancer UK shows the disease takes the lives of more than 280 men in Northern Ireland each year, and is one of the most common cancers among men. The charity reports that over 12,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Northern Ireland.

The letter adds: “However, healthcare is a devolved matter and it is a matter for the Department of Health and a NI Health Minister.

“The people of NI should be able to raise these concerns with their own locally elected representatives in a devolved government and it is extremely frustrating that the ongoing absence of a functioning Executive is exacerbating the severe challenges that the healthcare system in NI is facing.

“In recent days the SoS has spoken publicly about talks with political parties, which he believes are in the final stages.

“It remains his top priority to facilitate the return of the NI Executive and a fully functioning NI Assembly, so these important issues can be addressed by those elected to do so.”


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