Consultation on access to specialist cancer drugs
The Health Minister has launched a consultation over access to expensive specialist cancer drugs not available on the NHS.
The Individual Funding Request (IFR) process currently provides limited access to high-cost drugs that have not been approved for routine medical use.
Michelle O'Neill said: "I understand how important it is that patients should have access to the drugs they need.
"However we also need to be aware that increasing access to unapproved specialist drugs will carry significant costs at a time when the Health and Social Care budget is facing real pressures.
"I welcome everyone's view on the proposed reformed IFR process, which I hope will strike the right balance by putting clinical expertise at the centre of this decision making process."
Roisin Foster of Cancer Focus NI said: "Our patients are being disadvantaged in accessing new treatment, and because their treatment may be several drugs behind the latest, they are often excluded from clinical trials for the next generation of treatment.
"It is heartbreaking to listen to patients who know more treatment is available for them, but which they can't access because they live in NI."
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said Ms O'Neill had committed herself to push for changes to access cancer drugs "to be implemented immediately" after the consultation ends in April.