The government Cancer Drugs Fund is due to be replaced at the beginning of next year, but experts are worried that cancer patients will lose out in the ‘ill-defined’ new system.
The Cancer Drugs Fund will end in 2014
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. In England it has already helped more than 25,000 people.
But with the Cancer Drugs Fund coming to an end in 2014, the government has set out a new system known as Value-Based Pricing to replace it.
The new drug pricing system aims to give NHS patients better access to effective and innovative medicines.
However, lack of clarity over the plans has led to heavy criticism from the Health Committee. The government has not yet published details on how the system will work in practise, putting cancer patients and doctors in the dark.
The Health Committee has urged the government to clarify the new drug pricing system by the end of March this year.
Until this happens, there are worries that patients who are currently benefitting from the Cancer Drugs Fund will miss out on treatment when the Fund is replaced. Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell said:
"Where an individual patient is on a course of treatment it is important there isn't a cliff edge, that the patient has continuity of care."
Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy and information, said: "Data on the impact of the fund should be fed in to plans for Value-Based Pricing to make sure cancer patients don’t lose out when the Fund ends in March next year."
The Department of Health has promised that patients who are being treated through the Cancer Drugs Fund will be protected during the transition.
If you want access to drugs and treatments not widely available on the NHS, look for a private medical insurance policy with full cancer cover.
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