Dawn Primarolo MP's response to constituents regarding the Breast Cancer Drugs:
Thank you for contacting me recently regarding access to life-extending drugs and the related 'Demand a Fair Price' campaign from Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
I appreciate the frustration and concern that many people feel about the difficulties that can occur in accessing innovative, life extending drugs, which can offer patients crucial extra time with their loved ones.
In particular, Breakthrough Breast Cancer's 'Demand a Fair Price' campaign emphasises that a number of secondary breast cancer drugs have been rejected by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the basis of cost effectiveness. The campaign also raises serious concerns about the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) and the lack of a long term sustainable solution to achieve routine access to life extending drugs.
Improving safe and timely access to medicines that can benefit patients is something that we all want to see. I also believe that the Government need to work with the pharmaceutical industry to help ensure that new and innovative drugs enter the market at an affordable and timely rate.
As you may know, NHS England recently ran a consultation on proposed changes to the way the CDF operates, which closed on 31st October 2014. As part of these changes, NHS England is re-assessing a number of drugs that are currently listed within the fund, along with evaluating some new ones, which I appreciate has sparked concern among a number of cancer charities. I am hopeful that NHS England will take into account the views of all interested parties in order to improve patient access to the most clinically effective drugs, whilst delivering value for money for patients and the public.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that NICE has also recently called for a review of the way new medicines are adopted in the NHS, following a six month consultation on how the agency could adopt more 'value-based' methods for assessing new medicines. I agree that NICE, along with the NHS, the pharmaceutical industry and health researchers, need to work together to consider ways to improve the innovation, evaluation and adoption of new treatments.
With specific regard to cancer treatment, I also believe we need to ensure that people have access to a wide range of treatments including drugs, radiotherapy and surgery, and that patients get tested quickly if they are suspected to have cancer. That is why I welcome the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition that a future Labour Government would guarantee that NHS patients in England will wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020. Additionally, I have also written to Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP on your behalf regarding the access to life-extending drugs campaign and whether this will be a manifesto commitment ahead of the general election in 2015. I will contact you again when I have received a response.
Thank you for contacting me and sharing your views. I can assure you that I will continue to bear these points in mind and as always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further help with this or any other issue.