Cuts to cancer treatments announced
Twenty-five different cancer treatments will no longer be funded by the NHS in England, health chiefs have announced. NHS England announced the step after it emerged the £280m Cancer Drugs Fund – for drugs not routinely available – was to go £100m over budget in 2014/15. Some drugs will be removed and others restricted, a move which charities say could leave some without crucial treatments.
But a Department of Health spokesman said it will allow “new and better drugs” to be offered to patients. Cancer patients currently receiving the treatments will still be allowed to continue using them.
The restrictions come into place from 12 March and affect a whole range of treatments for breast, pancreatic and bowel cancer. The most commonly used treatment on the list is Avastin for advanced bowel cancer. The Rarer Cancers Foundation estimates the step will result in more than 7,700 patients losing out. But NHS England said “difficult decisions” needed to be made and the move would allow some new treatments to be funded.
The overall fund will increase to £340m next year, even though the cuts will save £80m a year. Three new treatments have already been added to the list for next year, bringing the total number of drugs that will be available through the fund to 62 from April. The government says any patient currently receiving a drug through the fund will continue to receive it.
Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “The funding of cancer drugs has always raised concern and patients and their families will of course want to try anything which may prolong their lives. There seem to be two sides to this decision in that many of the costly drugs now being withdrawn had insufficient clinical benefit. If the resolution is that more affordable drugs which are more effective replace those being withdrawn then patients would benefit but some experts appear to be saying that some patients may die sooner because of the lack of proposed withdrawals which would be tragic.”
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