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UK Labour party pledges £330m cancer fund

Says will improve access to cancer drugs, radiotherapy and surgery if elected
andy burnham labour shadow health secretary

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham

The UK Labour party is going head-to-head with the Conservatives by pledging £330m to improve access to cancer treatments on the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham announced yesterday at the Britain Against Cancer conference that, if elected, Labour would create a new annual Cancer Treatments Fund to start in April 2016 once the current Cancer Drugs Fund expires.

This would be funded via the current £280m Cancer Drugs Fund budget, topped up by £50m from the pharmaceutical industry rebate.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was launched by the Coalition Government in 2010 with an initial budget of £600m across three years to pay for cancer drugs not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for routine NHS reimbursement.

It has since been extended and received extra funding but there are concerns about the sustainability of access to innovative cancer drugs once the Fund expires in 2016.

The Fund has also changed shape since it was launched and now incorporates an evaluation element that could see expensive new products removed from the list of available drugs.

Charity campaigners have called on all major parties to commit to funding cancer treatments beyond 2016, and Labour has responded by going further than just access to new drugs, with the £330m investment also covering radiotherapy and surgery.

“The problem with cancer policy under the current Government is that it prioritises one form of cancer treatment over others and places one group of patients ahead of another,” said Burnham. “This is indefensible when we know surgery and radiotherapy are responsible for nine in ten cases where cancer is cured.”

Labour also addressed concerns that some patients would be taken off drugs if they removed from the list following an evaluation by stating that “any patient in receipt of a drug from the Cancer Drugs Fund would continue to be offered that drug”. 

Labour's commitment drew positive comments from both industry and charities, although concerns remain about the sustainability of reimbursement for new cancer drugs in the UK.

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of trade body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “To ensure that all patients get access to the best new medicines we are calling for reform of NICE to enable it to look at new medicines with greater flexibility whilst also balancing the affordability issue.

The long-term sustainable solution is of course to utilise the expertise of NICE in partnership with NHS England to address this challenge.

The charity Macmillan Cancer Support also called for clarification on the future of treatment access.

“It is fundamental that any new system for the approval of cancer treatment is sustainable and keeps the patient at its heart,” said Duleep Allirajah, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support.

“We will work with all parties to further develop their thinking on how we can make sure so that more people with cancer have access to innovative and effective treatment to help them live longer and in better health.”

Article by
Thomas Meek

10th December 2014

From: Sales, Healthcare



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