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Cancer drug access system 'essential', DUP's Jim Shannon says

Published 20/10/2015

Jim Shannon has called for urgent action from the Government
Jim Shannon has called for urgent action from the Government

A long-term and sustainable system for access to cancer drugs is "essential" as you simply "cannot put a price" on doing what is right, a DUP MP has said.

Jim Shannon said that given the consequences for patients it was "imperative" Government acted sooner rather than later adding that "each minute we fail to make progress on this issue we are failing a British citizen suffering from cancer".

The MP for Strangford highlighted the budgetary constraints faced by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), adding there was a need for an open discussion about how to progress in a "sustainable manner".

Mr Shannon said a second round of delisting would see a further 16 drugs delisted.

Speaking during his Westminster debate on the availability of cancer drugs, he said: "Moves like the removal of the drugs prevents thousands of cancer sufferers across England and Wales from being able to access the quality treatment they deserve, thousands of people disadvantaged, thousands of people losing out, thousands of normal people in despair."

He added: "We all know we are living in times where we are all being asked to tighten our belts and when it comes to issues like this you simply cannot put a price on doing what's right.

"Given the consequences for patients it is imperative we act sooner rather than later. A long term and sustainable system for cancer drugs is essential and while we build that we have to keep doing what we can to improve the lives of those suffering right now."

Mr Shannon argued the SNP and the Scottish Parliament had "led the way" in how cancer drugs could be allocated and there were lessons to be learned.

Labour's Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) raised the issue of the planned removal of pancreatic cancer drug Abraxane from the CDF list on November 4 after being added in March 2014, adding there was "considerable public outcry" at the decision as other countries were "taking the leap forward" in approving the drug.

He said: "We simply cannot have such a one size fits all system."

Mr Dakin said the CDF was "clearly not fit for purpose for dealing with these exceptional situations".

Shadow public health minister Andrew Gwynne said access to drugs "really does matter" adding the UK was "still lagging behind" many other comparable countries when it came to cancer treatment.

Minister for life sciences George Freeman said the Government had committed more than one billion pounds to the CDF and just under 80,000 patients had benefited.

He said: "The truth is the explosion of progress in this field is what has put so much pressure on the CDF. Ever more treatments coming online and Nice turning down ever more treatments on very well respected health economic grounds, difficult judgments about what represents value, health economic value for the system and for patients."

Mr Freeman said the CDF did not have any mechanism built in for discounting. He said: "One of the things that we want to look at is whether we might use our extraordinary purchasing power to use that fund in a more productive way to get earlier access and in return for the earlier access get discounting. That is absolutely what the Accelerated Access Review is all about."

Mr Freeman confirmed that for patients receiving drugs through the CDF where NHS England decided to delist a drug those patients would continue to receive it.

On Abraxane, he said Nice was in the process of developing guidance on it for pancreatic cancer and expected to publish it "very shortly".

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