5-ALA available in Wales by April

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Cardiff and Vale University Health Board are planning to start using 5-ALA (5-Amino-Levulinic Acid) for eligible brain tumour patients by the end of the financial year

This follows a decision by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee in July to introduce the aid as part of its commissioning.

The surgical tool, also known as the Pink Drink, was only available in around half of all UK neurosurgical centres at the start of last year, according to a Freedom Of Information request submitted us.

5-AminoLevulinic Acid (5-ALA), referred to as the 'Pink Drink', is a surgical tool which aids neurosurgeons in removing brain tumours.

5-ALA is only available for patients with a high-grade glioma. Patients drink 5-ALA pre-surgery and it illuminates cancerous tissue to allow surgeons to distinguish between the tumour and normal brain tissue more clearly therefore allowing a higher percentage of tumour removal.

Lord O'Shaughnessy, former Health Minister, announced early last year 5-ALA would be universally rolled out across all centres following Tessa Jowell's call for its implementation during her House of Lords speech.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) later included the aid in their guidance, 'Brain tumours (primary) and brain metastases in adults', the first guidance on brain tumours in a decade, in July.

The commitment to roll out 5-ALA was further guaranteed by NHS England in the publication of their long-term plan at the start of the year.

The Charity has been steadfast in ensuring all neurosurgical centres procure and utilise this treatment as soon as possible.

Wales brain tumour community

University Hospital of Wales is the only neurosurgery in Wales, catering for brain tumour patients from the mid and south of the country.

Surgical resection of a brain tumour increases, on average, from 30% to 70.5% in cases when the aid is used.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are highly toxic and can have a significant impact on a patient's health and energy levels.

Since the Pink Drink increases the amount of tumour removed then the need for chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be reduced.

It is welcome news for those treated in Wales and we were delighted to receive correspondence from Wales' Health and Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething AM, that the Health Board is working towards implementing it by the end of the financial year.

University Hospital of Wales are procuring the aid and neurosurgeons are currently receiving training on its use.

The Charity welcomes this advancement in Wales for our community and we will continue to press Welsh Government, as well as those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to improve access to the best treatments available to brain tumour patients.

Cameron Miller, Head of Policy & Public Affairs: “We are delighted that we finally have a timeframe for implementation of 5-ALA in Wales. We have long campaigned for its use throughout the UK and want to thank all those involved in making this happen."

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