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Cancer Drugs Fund

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

4. What recent representations he has received on access to the cancer drugs fund; and if he will make a statement. (88269)

We have received a number of supportive representations regarding the cancer drugs fund. Indeed, the Rarer Cancers Foundation recently praised the fund for making additional cancer drugs available to almost 10,000 patients in England since October 2010. It contrasted that access to medicines in England with the lack of such access in Wales.

My right hon. Friend has cited the view of the Rarer Cancers Foundation. Does he agree that this policy has put patients and doctors back at the heart of decision making, and has transformed the ability of cancer patients to obtain clinically effective treatment so that they can gain precious extra time with their families?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the summer of 2010, we learnt from Sir Mike Richards’s review that patients in this country were less likely to have access to the latest cancer medicines within five years of their introduction than those in many other European countries. I am proud that so far the coalition Government have been able, through the cancer drugs fund, to help 10,000 patients to gain access to the latest cancer medicines.

I thank the Minister for that response. Last year, Cancer Research UK revealed that cancer deaths were down 20% since 1985 and survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. Does the Minister agree that we must continue to research proactively and thereby continue to reduce deaths and ensure continuity of life?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and he is absolutely right about that, of course. He will also be aware that Cancer Research UK highlighted not only the progress that had been made, but the variation in progress on different cancers. Harking back to the earlier point about innovation, we must focus on how some of these innovations will enable us to deliver improved survival rates for specific cancers, and I announced last month that we would be funding additional scanner facilities in this country—proton beam therapy scanning interventions—in order to enable some of the most difficult cancers, such as brain cancers in children, to be treated in this country effectively.

A cancer patient in my constituency faces an avoidable further round of chemotherapy having waited for the strategic health authority to make an individual funding request decision on the drug Plerixafor, which is not included in the cancer drugs fund. Will the Minister consider broadening the scope of the cancer drugs fund to include such drugs that are critical in cancer patients’ care, in addition to their other uses?

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would write to me about that. The cancer drugs fund is focused on an identified lack of access to cancer medicines, but if a drug is of particular benefit to a cancer patient, such as in the instance he describes, it should be possible for SHA panels to include it within the scope of the fund.

Will the Secretary of State confirm whether those receiving treatment under the cancer drugs fund will also be guaranteed treatment under the new scheme?

The intention is that from January 2014 as new medicines are introduced through the value-based pricing system, the reimbursement price in the NHS will reflect their value and therefore, by extension, they will all be available through the NHS.