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Cancer drugs fund 'to be extended'

Source BBC News@ tienganhvui.com


Patient receiving chemotherapyThe £650m fund has paid for treatment for over 28,000 patients


A £200m-a-year fund for life-enhancing cancer drugs is to continue until 2016, the prime minister has announced.


The Cancer Drugs Fund was set up in 2011 to help patients in England access certain drugs before they get approval for widespread NHS use.


The scheme was due to end next year, but David Cameron has pledged £400m to keep it running.


Cancer charities have welcomed the move, but Labour accused the prime minister of "letting down" patients.


The aim of the fund was to make it easier for medics to prescribe treatments even if they have not yet been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).


The scheme was set to run until 2014 and campaigners raised concerns about where patients would turn for help when the funding ceased.


Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, welcomed the announcement.


He said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund has made a huge difference to cancer patients in England, significantly improving the quality of treatment available to people with advanced forms of cancer.


"It has also addressed some of the historic inequities that have existed for people with rarer cancers, ensuring that access to treatment is not denied simply because you are unlucky enough to have a rare form of cancer.


"This is a compassionate, common sense announcement which will be warmly welcomed by many thousands of cancer patients."




An extension of the Cancer Drugs Fund in England means a radical overhaul in the NHS drugs pricing system is now unlikely.


Next year was meant to mark the start of value-based pricing, a system proposed by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to promote a closer link between the price the NHS pays and the value a medicine offers.


It could have led to higher price thresholds for medicines for diseases with a greater burden of illness or in areas where there is un-met need, or if it could be demonstrated that there would be wider benefits, such as getting people back to work.


Some of these elements are to be incorporated into the work of the drugs advisory body the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence from January.


But this announcement effectively signals a light-touch version of what was first envisaged.



So far more than 34,000 patients have benefited from the fund and the charity estimates that 16,500 extra patients will benefit each year as a result of the extension.


Mr Cameron said: "When I became prime minister three years ago many patients with rare cancers were being denied life-saving treatments.


"That is why we created the Cancer Drugs Fund, it is why we are extending it, and it is why we are partnering with Cancer Research UK to conduct new research into the effectiveness of cancer drugs.


"It is only because we have protected health spending that we can afford these life saving treatments."


Dr Andrew Protheroe, consultant in medical oncology at The Churchill Hospital in Oxford, also backed the extension of the scheme.


He said: "The more treatment options that are available to me, the better job I feel I can do for my patients.


"There is nothing more frustrating than knowing there is an effective, licensed, evidence-based treatment available which I am not allowed to use.


"It is like trying to do your job with one hand tied behind your back.


"Before the Cancer Drugs Fund, doctors were not able to use a whole range of drugs which were part of standard practice in other countries.


"This fantastic announcement means we won't have to go back to those days."


But shadow health minister Liz Kendall said the government was "letting down cancer patients".


She highlighted the fact that expert cancer networks - set up to improve access to high quality services - were scrapped during the reorganisation of the NHS earlier this year.


She added: "David Cameron should also stand up to the tobacco lobby rather than caving in to them over standardised cigarette packaging, which experts say would be a powerful weapon in the long-term fight against cancer."


Alongside plans to extend the fund, Mr Cameron also announced that Genomics England - a government-owned organisation tasked with mapping the DNA of 100,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases - will begin a partnership with Cancer Research UK.





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