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Britain's health service rolls out breast cancer prevention pill

Published: 10th Nov, 2023

Context:

Anastrozole, which has been used for many years as a breast cancer treatment, has today been licensed by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a preventive option - which it is hoped could help prevent thousands of breast cancer cases in England.

Background:

  • Every year, around 56,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer – about 150 a day. While survival rates have improved, it still claims about 11,500 lives each year.
  • Almost 300,000 women at higher risk of developing breast cancer are being given access to a drug that can halve their risk in a “major step forward” in the fight against the disease.
  • An estimated 289,000 women in England who are at moderate or high risk of breast cancer will be able to take the tablet to try to prevent it from developing, NHS.

About Anastrozole:

  • Anastrozole is known as an aromatase inhibitor. It works by reducing the amount of the hormone oestrogen that a woman’s body makes by blocking the enzyme aromatase.
  • Anastrozole is the first product of the pioneering Medicines Repurposing Programme, under which a consortium of key health bodies are examining the potential of existing drugs to be used for different purposes.

About Drug:

  • The drug, anastrozole, is being made available to women who are in greater danger because they have been through menopause and have a major family history of Britain’s commonest form of cancer.
  • It displays “remarkable” potential to reduce the number of people who go on to develop the disease, the head of the NHS.
  • The vital risk-reducing option could now help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis.
  • The drug will be taken as a 1mg tablet once a day for five years.

Way Forward:

  • The extension of anastrozole’s licence to cover it being used as a risk-reducing treatment is a major step forward that will enable more eligible women with a significant family history of breast cancer to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
  • This Approach help prevent breast cancer at high risk are badly needed, so this is a welcome announcement.
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