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Charity demands action on cancer drug prices in UK

Breakthrough Breast Cancer wants commitment from all political parties

Houses of Parliament

Breakthrough Breast Cancer's annual reception took place at the House of Commons

The next UK government should commit to improving the current “unsustainable” system of cancer drug pricing, according to a leading cancer charity.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer held its annual reception at the House of Commons yesterday where it called for all political parties to make a commitment to extend the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England and to work with the pharma industry and patient groups on developing a new system of drug pricing and evaluation.

“The Cancer Drugs Fund was only supposed to be a temporary solution,” said Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, of the Fund that was introduced in 2010 as a way to pay for cancer medicines not recommended for NHS reimbursement.

The Fund has helped provide more than 55,000 people with access to cancer treatments they would otherwise not have received and has been extended to 2016, although critics have called for a more long-term solution.

“[The CDF] should remain until a workable alternative is found, it is merely papering over the cracks of a system which is no longer fit for purpose,” said Askew, who also noted that the Fund was not available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Innovative, effective drugs sitting on the shelf are of no use to anybody, least of all patients,” he added.

“Whilst there will be no quick fix solution to this problem, the pharmaceutical industry will need to get serious about its pricing and whoever forms the next government will need to get a grip on the problem and take action to resolve it.”

Six weeks ago Breakthrough launched its Demand a Fair Price campaign to raise awareness of the issue and put pressure on both the healthcare system and the pharma industry to address the "inflated prices" of new cancer drugs and abolish barriers to access.

As part of the campaign Breakthrough is asking the public to encourage their local MP to raise the issue in parliament.

10 most requested medicines on the Cancer Drugs Fund
April 2013 to March 2014

Avastin (bevacizumab)
Zytiga (abiraterone)
Erbitux (cetuximab)
Merck Serono
Afinitor (everolimus)
Halaven (eribulin)
Zaltrap (aflibercept)
Xtandi (enzalutamide)
Alimta (pemetrexed)
Nexavar (sorafenib)

Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer, also spoke at the reception, and made a commitment to call on all political parties to support the campaign.

“We've come a long way in developing new and better drugs for breast cancer but to keep moving towards a future where women can live longer feeling well, spend less time in hospital with debilitating side effects and more time with their families, and keep working if they are able to, we need to find a way to guarantee access to the drugs that can make this possible.”

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, gave the side of the pharma industry, saying it was “supportive” of the campaign and that a long-term solution was needed.

“We believe that the CDF is a sticking plaster for reversing poor patient access to cancer treatments in the UK, and the ABPI has called for the immediate evolution of current NICE appraisal processes for cancer medicines to address the growing issues and challenges around the Fund and to create a permanent and sustainable solution.”

Article by
Thomas Meek

28th October 2014

From: Sales, Marketing, Healthcare



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