[Ip-health] News: Guardian (UK)- Cancer fund will put £50m towards access to drugs

Terri - Louise Beswick Terri at haiweb.org
Thu Oct 7 09:44:03 PDT 2010

Cancer fund will put £50m towards access to drugs

Announcement welcomed by patient groups but critics worry fund will take money from patients who have other diseases


Friday, 01 October 2010

Tags: National News 


The government's new cancer drugs fund launches today with £50m in the kitty and high expectations from patients, support groups, cancer doctors and drug companies.


The money is intended to kickstart the fund, which will be formally launched next April, the Department of Health has said. It will pay for cancer patients to be prescribed drugs that Nice, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, has in the past rejected as not cost-effective. New cancer drugs invariably enter the market with a high price tag and some have little evidence of lengthening good quality life.


"The additional £50m funding for cancer drugs available from today is just the start of our plans to address the disparity in patients' access to cancer drugs in England compared to other countries," said the health secretary, Andrew Lansley.


"My aim is to truly empower patients by giving them more control over their care and helping them access the clinically effective drugs that their doctors believe could improve their quality of life. I know this will mean a lot to cancer sufferers, their carers and their families and I want to assure all patients that I am working towards longer term plans to change the way we pay for drugs so patients get better access to drugs and the NHS and taxpayers get better value for money."


The announcement was warmly welcomed by patient groups who will each hope their own members benefit - be they breast, prostate or kidney patients.


But critics are concerned that the fund will take money from patients who have from other diseases and will damage Nice, which is much admired in other countries.


"Why treat cancer specially? There are lots of other diseases that cause a lot of human misery," said York-based health economist Alan Maynard.


He suspected a successful pharmaceutical industry lobby. "They have run into problems with Nice because they have been unable to demonstrate that the drugs they have brought to market are cost-effective," he said.


The existence of the fund was effectively "running a coach and horses" through the concept of cost effectiveness, with which the companies had struggled with the government for 20 years, he said.


Bowel Cancer UK was one of the patient groups welcoming the start-up funding. "We hope [it] will enable more cancer patients to gain access to the treatments they need to live longer and feel better with the disease," said chief executive Deborah Alsina. Patients needed to have a choice of treatments, she said. "We therefore call on the government to honour its commitment to introduce the full cancer drugs fund next April and to utilise the fund as a pilot for value-based pricing for treatments as a step towards a longer term solution to the access to drugs issue."


Macmillan Cancer Support said it was crucial the government delivered on its £200m promise. "We feel passionately that everyone should get the drugs their doctor recommends regardless of what type of cancer they have or where they live," said Mike Hobday, head of policy.



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