Cancer charities are warning that thousands of patients without health insurance could be unable to access life extending drugs when the government Cancer Drugs Fund ends in 2014.
Drugs need to be assessed before they are available on the NHS
The Cancer Drugs Fund was set up in 2011 as a temporary measure to help patients without medical insurance access expensive cancer drugs that are not approved for use on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).
In England the £650m Fund has already helped more than 28,000 people.
However, charities like Beating Bowel Cancer warn that lives will be put at risk when the scheme comes to an end in 2014, with drugs no longer available when public funding runs out.
It says that bowel cancer patients have been the largest group to benefit from drugs paid for by the fund, and 6,427 people each year could be denied access to medicines.
Charity chief executive Mark Flannagan said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund has improved access to vital medicines for thousands of bowel cancer patients many of whom wouldn't be alive today if they hadn't had the treatment.”
"However, we're very worried that the clock is ticking for future bowel cancer patients. Without it we fear patients' lives will be put at risk.
"We simply can't go backwards to a time when cancer patients had to beg for life-extending treatment."
The Department of Health said it would "make sure arrangements were in place" to replace the fund, including a new pricing system.
When a new drug is licensed for use in the UK, it is available for private prescription. This means that self-pay patients and those with private health insurance could have access to it.
However, the drug needs to be considered cost effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) before it is offered widely on the NHS. Until then, NHS patients can only access the drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Heather Walker, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "The government needs to find long term, sustainable solutions to fund all effective cancer treatments, be they drugs, radiotherapy or surgery, so that patients are given the best care possible.
"The fund is due to close next year and it's crucial that cancer patients don't lose out."
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013