The government's drugs adviser recommends that two cancer drugs should be made available on the NHS.

The government's drugs adviser recommends that two cancer drugs should be made available on the NHS (Getty)

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of abiraterone to treat prostate cancer and erlotinib for lung cancer.

Both tablets are expensive - the list price for abiraterone is almost £3,000 for a month's treatment, while erlotinib costs £1,600 - but the manufacturers have agreed discounts for the health service.

Abiraterone is used for men with prostate cancer who have undergone treatment to reduce the size of their tumours, but are no longer responding to therapy. It could potentially extend life by more than three months.

Erlotinib is used for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type.

Discounts

Professor Carole Longson, from NICE, said: "NICE recommends more than 80 per cent of the drugs it appraises and we are very pleased to be able to add these two treatments to the list of options available to patients.

"During the consultation on the draft guidance, the manufacturer of abiraterone submitted a revised patient access scheme providing the drug to the NHS at a discounted price, as well as further information on which patients with prostate cancer would benefit most and clarification on how many patients could receive the drug.

"These factors enabled the committee to revise its preliminary views and recommend the drug for use on the NHS."

NICE recommends more than 80 per cent of the drugs it appraises and we are very pleased to be able to add these two treatments to the list of options available to patients. Professor Carole Longson, NICE

Prof Longson said NICE had already recommended using the drug gefitinib to treat lung cancer and was "pleased to be able to recommend another treatment option for this stage of the disease".

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer (after breast cancer) in England and Wales, with an estimated 40,800 new cases diagnosed every year. The most common cause is smoking.

Around 35,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK, and around 10,000 die from the disease.

The coalition government had proposed to strip NICE of its responsibility to recommends drugs and treatments for the NHS, but in June 2011, it backed down.

Cancer: can expensive treatment offer false hope?

More on this story