New ovarian cancer drug for Northern Ireland ‘could change lives for better’

Niraparib is one of the first drugs to be made available under new rules
Niraparib is one of the first drugs to be made available under new rules

The introduction of a new cancer drug to Northern Ireland, one of the first under a scheme announced in September, could “change lives for the better” an MLA has said.

North Antrim MLA Jim Allister was speaking after it was confirmed the new drug, known as Niraparib, will be commissioned in Northern Ireland thanks to changes announced by the Department of Health back in September.

Used to treat ovarian cancer, one of the most common types of cancer in women, Niraparib is being made available through the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund.

While the fund exists only in England, changes to the way ‘individual funding requests’ for new medicines are handled by the Department of Health here, announced back in September by Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly, mean drugs such as Niraparib can now be made available to patients in Northern Ireland.

Niraparib, which has been found in clinical trials to delay cancer growth in women matching a certain genetic profile, is one of the first new drugs to be available under the new rules.

Mr Allister, who had campaigned for the extension of the cancer drugs fund to Northern Ireland, said Niraparib could change lives for the better.

“Campaigners have pushed for Niraparib to be available because it increases progression-free survival, giving women with ovarian cancer more time between chemotherapy treatments and increasing their quality of life,” he said.

“There have previously been very few treatment options for women in Northern Ireland so this decision will hopefully change the lives of many women and their families for the better.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The department has now endorsed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommendation on Niraparib to enable its commissioning locally, on the same basis as in England.”