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Emergency drug fund for cancer patients

The UK government has announced a £50m fund allowing patients access to cancer drugs up to six months earlier than would otherwise be possible

The UK government has announced a £50m fund aimed at giving patients access to cancer drugs recommended by a hospital doctor up to six months earlier than would otherwise be possible.

MPs have agreed to introduce the interim fund to pay for such medication, even if it has not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), from October 2010. It means cancer patients will be able to access new medication, available elsewhere in Europe, immediately to help extend or better the quality of their lives.

The move follows findings that Britain lags behind other countries when it comes to new drug provision, as well as pressure from campaigners who questioned why the fund that had been due to come in force in April 2010 could not be made available immediately.

The interim fund will be paid for from undisclosed savings in the health budget. Doctors and cancer specialists will decide how the fund is spent for their patients locally.

The announcement comes in the wake of Nikki Phelps' death, a terminally ill mother who had been denied NHS funding for life-prolonging drugs. Her case was raised by Prime Minister David Cameron during the election campaign after she said she was going to sell her house to pay for the drug. She died a week after the election.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "It's a scandal that we are strong in cancer research and participation in clinical trials in the UK, yet NHS patients aren't always seeing the benefits from the research swiftly enough.

"Patients should have access to innovative cancer drugs that can extend or improve their quality of life and which their doctors have recommended, which is why I'm determined to take action now."

27th July 2010

From: Healthcare

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