Health

Welsh patients 'denied newer cancer drugs'

Campaigners say there is a significant divide between England and Wales in access to new cancer medicines.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation (RCF) is claiming patients in Wales are four times less likely to receive new treatment than those in England.

Health ministers in England set up a special fund worth £200m a year in 2010, to help pay for expensive new cancer drugs.

The Welsh Government has defended its record on spending for cancer patients.

Image caption There is concern that patients do not get access to newer cancer drugs

More than 30,000 patients are thought to have received treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, although it is due to end in March next year.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation (RCF), a charity which receives some support from the drug industry, says there is a contrast between England and Wales, where patients have to make individual requests for funding through their doctor if a new medicine has not yet been approved by the watchdog NICE.

The RCF has examined a report into the Welsh funding requests, which shows significant variation among the approval rates of health boards.

The charity was only able to compare funding requests and approvals for 2011/2012 - the last full figures available for England - with the 2012/2013 figures for Wales.

It says the approval rates for medicines were 7.05 per 100,000 in Wales, compared to 29.10 per 100,000 in England.

'Broken system'

Its chief executive, Andrew Wilson, said: "The Welsh Assembly Government's own figures reveal the extent of inequality in access to cancer drugs in Wales. Cancer patients are paying the price for a failure to fix this broken system.

"The needs of cancer patients are no less pressing on one side of a border than they are on another, nor are treatments any less effective. Urgent action is needed to end this inequality."

But the Welsh Government said the idea of a cancer drugs fund was not supported by all doctors or the public.

A spokesperson said: "We care greatly about providing the best care for the people of Wales and our commitment is to provide evidence-based, cost-effective treatments fairly to everyone.

"All medicines that are not approved by NICE or the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group can be prescribed in Wales where clinical exceptionality can be demonstrated.

"A cancer drugs fund would unfairly disadvantage many patients with serious conditions other than cancer."

The health minister, Anna Soubry, described the Cancer Drugs Fund as "one of this government's proudest achievements".

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