If Britain is to improve its cancer survival rates, more action is urgently needed to ensure patients have access to the most up-to-date treatments including innovative medicines, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said today.
Responding to reports of the new Cancer Plan, the ABPI welcomed many aspects of the document, but stressed that access to new medicines was still relatively slow and that those licensed for use – and often also approved by NICE - are frequently being refused to patients in some areas.
“In order to address the continuing and harrowing inequalities in UK cancer treatment, radical action is needed,” said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI.
“The pharmaceutical industry has many hundreds of cancer medicines in development. We want to see them reach patients; clinicians want to prescribe them; patients want to receive them – but, despite some improvements, it is not yet happening as it should.
“If we are serious about improving cancer survival rates, we must find effective ways of overcoming the delays and the postcode lottery that still bedevil treatment in this country.”
The ABPI welcomed Prof Mike Richards’s reported call for faster access to new medicines. But it expressed caution over the reported solution of seeking assessment by NICE at the same time as licensing approval is sought.
“With most medicines, it is difficult to assess medicines’ cost-effectiveness at launch – the relevant data are simply not available – and this is especially true of cancer medicines licensed on the basis of results in ‘late stage’ and ‘last resort’ therapy. Other ways of achieving the objective - such as provisional approval on condition of collection of evidence - must be sought,” said Dr Barker.
“Despite all the headlines, cancer medicines currently cost the NHS just 1p in the pound. This should not be a question of switching money between medicines, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other treatments, but for all aspects of cancer care to be given adequate funding.”
The ABPI has been involved in the development of the new Cancer Plan, and will be studying the final document when that is available.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410