New fund launched

A MAJOR new fund has been launched to help cancer patients get better access to vital drugs they need.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced last week that a £200m a year cancer drugs fund would be launched.

The move comes following a successful £50m interim fund that helped more than 2,000 cancer patients across England gain access to life-extending drugs since October last year – including around 180 people from the north east.

The fund will see a further £11.3m made available next year to patients in the north east via the North of England Cancer Drug Approval Group (NECDAG).

Applications for drugs which are not in the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) system will be considered by the group.

Over the past four years, patients in the north east have had access to a number of drugs well in advance of treatments approved by NICE.

Graham Jackson, consultant haematologist with NECDAG, said: “These additional funds represent potential benefits for some patients seeking cancer treatment.

“Because we already had a process in place for agreeing cancer drugs via NECDAG in the region, we were able to bring our experiences together to work in an innovative and collaborative way and ensure more patients can access potentially life enhancing drugs, fairly, quickly – and when they need them the most.

“As soon as the funding was announced we were able to agree applications with consultants and agree treatments for patients with breast cancer, bowel cancer, non small cell lung cancer, early bone marrow cancer, renal cancer, primary liver cancer and blood cancer.”

The cancer drugs fund is in addition to what primary care trusts already spend, and clinicians can still apply locally to primary care trusts for exceptional funding of drugs not normally available.

All drugs recommended as clinically and cost effective by NICE will continue to be funded by the NHS.