Northern Ireland

Olaparib: Cancer drug set to become more widely available

Olaparib tablets
Image caption Currently Olaparib is a treatment for women with advanced ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer who have a specific gene mutation

A drug for advanced ovarian cancer should become more "widely available" in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

Currently Olaparib is used to treat women with advanced ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer who have a specific gene mutation -BRCA - and who have undergone at least three separate rounds of chemotherapy.

The drug has now been approved for use by the drugs advisory body NICE in newly diagnosed cases in England.

In a statement to the BBC, the Department of Health said it was their policy that patients in Northern Ireland "will have the same access to NICE-approved drugs as their counterparts in other UK regions".

"Consequently the draft NICE guidance issued today should lead to wider availability of Olaparib, in Northern Ireland, where clinically appropriate."

The Department added that they will consider and act upon the NICE guidance once it's been finalised, which is expected in the next month.

"In the interim, the Health and Social Care Board can commission this drug and inform health service providers of the arrangements in place."

Genetic testing

Marie-Claire Platt, head of public affairs and research at Ovarian Cancer Action said she was "delighted" by the news.

"The postcode lottery for cancer treatment across the four nations has gone on too long and we congratulate the NI Department on the steps they have taken to ensure Northern Irish ovarian cancer patients don't miss out.

"Genetic testing is vital for women to access this treatment, therefore the Department of Health must now ensure that all Northern Irish women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are offered BRCA testing at diagnosis."

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