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Anti-cancer drug to go on Welsh NHS

Chemotherapy drug Abraxane will be available on the Welsh NHS for pancreatic cancer sufferers, ministers have announced.

Abraxane works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells.

Welsh Government officials say the decision to fund the injectable drug came following a positive recommendation from the independent All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) earlier this month.

The decision makes Wales the only country in the UK where Abraxane will be "routinely available" on the health service.

Health bodies in England and Scotland opted against approving NHS use of the drug, which can also be used to treat those with breast cancer.

At present, pancreatic cancer is the fifth-biggest cancer killer in the UK.

Wales' Health Minister Mark Drakeford said AWMSG's study found Abraxane - which belongs to the "taxel" family - to be both clinically and cost effective.

He said: "I am proud that in Wales we have a system in place where patients get access to proven and effective treatments for cancer and other life-threatening conditions."

The decision was welcomed by Pancreatic Cancer UK.

According to the charity's statistics, those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have just a 3% chance of surviving.

Chief executive Alex Ford said: "This is an important step forward for pancreatic cancer patients in Wales, as there are currently very few treatment options available.

"The decision gives clinicians another weapon in their armoury to help fight the disease and, while patients will still need to meet certain medical eligibility criteria, such as being fit enough to tolerate the treatment regime, it means more patients will get access to life-extending drugs."

Last month, health body the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended that Abraxane should not be available for use on the NHS in England.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium said it would not be approving Abraxane for routine use on the NHS in June. It is also not available in Northern Ireland.

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