New Ј50m fund to improve drug access for cancer patients

In collaboration with Adfero

A new fund aiming at giving patients greater access to cancer drugs has been launched after £50 million in funding was made available by the Department of Health.

It is hoped the initiative will help thousands of cancer patients secure pioneering treatments which extend or improve quality of life.

Crucially, this money can be used to provide patients with drugs for which the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has not given a positive review.

Drugs which NICE has yet to issue guidance for will also be available.

"The additional £50 million funding for cancer drugs available from today is just the start of our plans to address the disparity in patients' access to cancer drugs in England compared to other countries," commented health secretary Andrew Lansley.

"My aim is to truly empower patients by giving them more control over their care and helping them access the clinically effective drugs that their doctors believe could improve their quality of life."

Money will be available until March 31st, when the scheme will be replaced by the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Meanwhile, Mr Lansley said he intends to introduce new long-term plans which will change the way drugs are paid for. The aim is to make more drugs available to ordinary patients while delivering value for money for the NHS and taxpayers.

Hilary Tovey, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This cancer drugs fund could make a real difference for some cancer patients, allowing them to get the drugs they need quickly. It could mean that some patients are given more time with their loved ones that they previously would have been denied.

"Being diagnosed with cancer can be very distressing, and patients shouldn't have to worry about whether or not they will get the drugs they need on top of this.

"It's important that decisions about giving patients access to the fund are made as quickly as possible. Doctors should not have to go through laborious application processes which can hold up treatment.

"We must remember that this is just a stop-gap. We still don't know how the full fund - due to come into effect from April - will be distributed, or how much money the government will be putting in."