‘Repurposed’ NHS drug could help prevent thousands of women from breast cancer


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The drug can ‘reduce’ breast cancer incidence in post-menopausal women by almost 50 per cent

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved Anastrozole in a new use to prevent the disease.

The off-patent drug has been used as a breast cancer treatment for many years.

Clinical trials have shown that it can reduce the incidence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women with increased risk by almost 50 per cent.

Health Minister Will Quince expressed his happiness on the approval of the drug that can help to prevent this “cruel disease”.

He said: “We’ve already seen the positive effect Anastrozole can have in treating the disease when it has been detected in post-menopausal women and now we can use it to stop it developing at all in some women.

“This is a great example of NHS England’s innovative Medicines Repurposing Programme supporting the development of new ways for NHS patients to benefit from existing treatments.”

Dame June Raine, Chief Executive of the MHRA, said the agency welcomes applications for “repurposed medicines” and encourages early dialogue from companies or developers considering this.

In 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence first recommended it as a preventive option for breast cancer.

However, the uptake has remained low, due to a lack of licensing for preventive use.

The credit goes to a pioneering Medicines Repurposing Programme led by the National Health System (NHS) England.

According to NHS England, around 289,000 women at moderate or high risk of breast cancer could be eligible for the ‘repurposed’ drug.

It is estimated that if 25 per cent of them choose to take it, around 2,000 breast cancer cases could be prevented.

This will also help the NHS save around £15 million in treatment costs, NHS confirmed.

Amanda Pritchard, the CEO of NHS England, said: “It’s fantastic that this vital risk-reducing option could now help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis.

“Allowing more women to live healthier lives, free of breast cancer is truly remarkable, and we hope that licensing anastrozole for a new use today represents the first step to ensuring this risk-reducing option can be accessed by all who could benefit from it.”

How the breast cancer drug works  

Anastrozole is an aromatase inhibitor that helps reduce the amount of the hormone oestrogen in the patient’s body by blocking an enzyme called ‘aromatase’.

The approved dosage is recommended to 1 mg tablet once a day for five years.

The medicine can cause side effects such as hot flashes, feeling weak, pain/stiffness in the joints, arthritis, skin rash, nausea, headache, osteoporosis, and depression.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in England, with 47,000 new cases reported each year.


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