Equal Access to The Pink Drink: 5-ALA

The Pink Drink (5-ALA) is a valuable surgical aid which helps neurosurgeons see and successfully remove complete tumours during surgery.

Why is the Pink Drink Important?

Surgery is the major line of treatment for people with a high grade glioma. 5-AminoLevulinic Acid (5-ALA or the 'Pink Drink') is the only viable tool that aids neurosurgeons in achieving a higher percentage of successful tumour removal. In fact, the whole tumour is successfully removed in 70.5% of cases when the Pink Drink is used 1, which is up from around 30% without this valuable surgical aid2.

Without the Pink Drink, people diagnosed with a high grade glioma must undergo a rigorous course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to reduce the amount of tumour remaining. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are highly toxic and have a significant impact on the person's health, energy levels, and appearance. When the Pink Drink is used, the amount of chemotherapy and radiotherapy needed can be reduced, or stopped completely, for a greater length of time.

Where is the Pink Drink Available?

Research undertaken by us discovered that, currently, the Pink Drink is not fully available in almost 50% of neurocentres, meaning access to the best treatments is currently being determined by someone's postcode, not by what's right for them; and we've been campaigning to change this.

We've explored the barriers to accessing the Pink Drink and sent a Freedom of Information request to every neurocentre in the UK regarding their access. We then fed back everything we found to Tessa Jowell to arm her in her debate in the House of Lords on 25 January 2018. This has produced great success.

Lord O'Shaunnessy announced a response that,

“The noble Baroness specifically asked about the availability of a key florescent dye, and I can tell her it is called 5-ALA. It helps surgeons to see malignant tissue, so helps to ensure a more accurate surgical margin during surgery. We have spoken to NHS England in advance of this debate, which has committed to working with the cancer alliances and the brain cancer surgery centres to drive national uptake of its usage."

We will continue to work alongside healthcare professionals and the government to ensure that this is followed through for the best outcome for those diagnosed with a high grade glioma so, eventually, everyone who should have access, will have access, and so no one has to say goodbye too soon.


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Stummer W, Tonn JC, Mehdorn HM, et al. Counterbalancing risks and gains from extended resections in malignant glioma surgery: a supplemental analysis from the randomized 5-aminolevulinic acid glioma resection study. Clinical article. J Neurosurg 2011; 114(3): 613-23.

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