Skip to main content

Cancer: Drugs

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 17 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent estimate she has made of the number of people suffering from cancer who have been denied drugs on account of their cost; and if she will make a statement. (137411)

[holding answer 15 May 2007]: The Department has not made an estimate of the type requested.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, an independent body, was set up to make decisions on the clinical and cost effectiveness of technologies based on the latest evidence. It determines whether a drug is sufficiently effective to justify the cost in the context of a finite health budget. A report published by the National Cancer Director last year, “Uptake of NICE approved cancer drugs”, confirmed that the uptake of new cancer drugs by the national health service increases and variation in use around the country reduces following a positive NICE appraisal.

The Department has reiterated in recent good practice guidance that the NHS should not withhold funding for treatments just because NICE guidance is not available. In this instance, primary care trusts should make their decisions based on the available evidence.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what the cost of drugs prescribed to treat cancer was in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. (137412)

[holding answer 15 May 2007]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 1 May 2007, Official Report, column 1594W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of regional variations in England in the treatment of cancer, with particular reference to the prescribing of drugs; and if she will make a statement. (137413)

[holding answer 15 May 2007]: In June 2004, Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director published ‘Variations in usage of cancer drugs approved by NICE’. This report showed that a positive appraisal of a cancer drug by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) was usually followed by increased overall usage of that drug but that there was variation in usage of NICE approved drugs between cancer networks.

In July 2006, Professor Richards published a follow-up report, ‘Usage of cancer drugs approved by NICE’, to confirm if the variations identified had been reduced. This report showed improvements with a continued increase in uptake of cancer drugs following a positive NICE appraisal (a 47 per cent. increase in cancer drug use since the last review) and a reduction in variation between cancer networks in usage of all NICE approved cancer drugs.

Both these reports are available in the Library.