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Roche survey says Scottish cancer patients moving house to get treatment

But NHS Scotland hits back at report's "extremely dubious" findings

Survey says cancer patients in Scotland are moving to receive treatment

More than one third of cancer specialists surveyed in Scotland are aware of a patient who has relocated to England to receive treatment, according to a report commissioned by the pharma company Roche.

The survey, which involved online interviews with 23 oncologists and five haematologists, also disclosed that 96 per cent of those consultants surveyed said access to cancer therapies was better in England than Scotland and 50 per cent said restricted access had lowered Scotland's standard of care compared to the rest of Europe.

Despite the limited sample, the findings are revealing, and suggest that Scotland has some way to catch up on its neighbour, which introduced such initiatives as the Cancer Drugs Fund to pay for medicines not deemed a cost-effective use of NHS resources by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

There is no equivalent in Scotland for drugs not recommended by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, meaning NHS patients are unable to access such drugs as Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab).

But Dr Jason Leitch, clinical director of NHS Scotland, hit back against the survey's findings, telling PMLiVE its evidence base was "extremely dubious".

"Billion-pound pharmaceutical giant Roche only surveyed 28 people and we simply don't recognise the figures they are quoting," said Dr Leitch. “They have shown no evidence to support their claims, nor any information on the 34 drugs which they claim are freely available in England but not here." 

He added: “Cancer mortality and survival in Scotland is improving all the time – people are living longer with the disease than ever before, thanks to earlier diagnosis, advances in treatments and investment in staff and equipment."

Roche has made previous calls for the Scottish government to improve access to cancer drugs, but the closest the government has come has been a £21m fund to pay for orphan medicines, although Roche claims “it is not yet clear as to how this fund will work or be available for cancer medicines”.

Scotland is reviewing the way medicines are introduced onto the market in the Access to New Medicines Review, which was launched last year by health secretary Alex Neil.

It has instructions to “look at every aspect of the introduction of new medicines from national advice to local decision-making to establish whether any further improvements can be made”, and an oral evidence sessions is anticipated on May 7, 2013.

According to the survey, 93 per cent of clinicians surveyed are aware of the review and 84 per cent consider it to be very important.

Speaking to PMLiVE, a spokesperson for the SMC said the organisation was aware of the survey but was not ready to contribute a comment.

7th May 2013

From: Sales, Regulatory, Healthcare

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