A woman in a checkered jumper having chemotherapy

Breakthrough in ovarian cancer treatment with olaparib

Gamechanging drug olaparib is now available from beginning of treatment across the UK.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has joined the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) by approving a breakthrough ovarian cancer drug from the first round of treatment, meaning it is now available across the UK. Olaparib (Lynparza®) is one of a new generation of drugs known as PARP inhibitors, which work by stopping cancer cells from repairing themselves, effectively crippling them.

Who could have access to olaparib?

Women who have advanced ovarian cancer, a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and have had one round of chemotherapy. 

Olaparib had previously been available to a small number of women with recurrent ovarian cancer. Today's announcement makes it the first PARP inhibitor available to a larger group of women, from the first round of treatment onwards.

Why is this significant?

Accessing ovarian cancer drugs earlier means women have a better chance of surviving ovarian cancer from the outset. Eleven women die every day from ovarian cancer, and two thirds (66 per cent) are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread (stage II-IV), making it harder to treat and more likely to come back. Olaparib is significant because it could help women with ovarian cancer, who have very few different treatment options, to survive for longer.

Annwen Jones OBE, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said:

For the first time women with a BRCA mutation will be able to access this gamechanging new generation of ovarian cancer drugs, the PARP inhibitors, from their first round of treatment. For many women this represents a long overdue improvement and we look forward to a future where all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, regardless of BRCA status, have multiple treatment options.

Jennifer Jennings, from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 and has been taking olaparib since 2018 – after her second round of chemotherapy treatment. She said:

It was so hard to hear that my cancer is treatable, but not curable. Taking olaparib has given me an extension to life that I might not have had otherwise - despite experiencing some side effects, I tolerate it very well. It’s given me quality time to spend with my family, I’m looking forward to the birth of my first grandchild in the New Year, and I’m also back at work. I think that without olaparib my life would be completely different.

What about other areas of the UK?

Yes. Olaparib is now available across the UK. Target Ovarian Cancer has championed better access to PARP inhibitors and represented the views of women with ovarian cancer on olaparib as it was reviewed. This included acting as an expert witness on the NICE committee and an expert patient representative during the SMC’s Patient and Clinical Engagement (PACE) process. 

If you have any questions about olaparib’s availability, please speak to your clinician.