The Mail on Sunday
Tories’ £1bn N.I. pledge on‘too costly’ cancer drugs
THE lives of thousands of cancer patients could by saved by a £1 billion pledge by David Cameron to buy drugs restricted by NHS chiefs as too expensive, the Conservatives have claimed.
The Tory leader promised that if he wins power, he will set up a new Cancer Drugs Fund paid for by savings in the health service payroll bill as a result of cuts in national insurance.
Mr Cameron said the one per cent N.I. cut announced by his party last week would save the NHS £200 million a year. And the money – worth £1 billion over a five-year Parliamentary term – would be used to aid cancer patients.
The move follows complaints by sufferers that as many as 15 lifesaving drugs are denied to them by the NHS because they are too expensive. Some of the drugs are routinely made available in other European countries.
Mr Cameron said: ‘Patients in this country should be among the first in the world to use effective cancer treatments, but are being denied access to drugs widely available in Europe.
‘Other European countries are better than us at giving people longer, happier lives with cancer and we want to get more drugs to people more quickly.
‘By not going ahead with the National Insurance increase, it will save the NHS money and we will put that money into a Cancer Drugs Fund.’
The Tories say the initiative guarantees that cancer patients will have access to all cancer drugs licensed since 2005 if they are supported by their doctor. Nearly 250,000 people in England are diagnosed with cancer each year, and around 129,000 of them die from the disease.
The proposals could see an end to the so-called ‘postcode lottery’ for cancer drugs. Local funding bodies, known as Primary Care Trusts, can currently decide if they are prepared to pay for new drugs treatments which have not been approved for use on the NHS by medicines advisory body NICE.
But this has led to situations where patients in one PCT are entitled to care while those in another are not.
The Tory plans prevent PCTs from making this decision and means the money would not come out of their already over-stretched budgets.
Instead, it would place the prescribing power in the hands of specialist cancer doctors.
Although the UK survival rate has improved substantially in recent years, it has fallen further behind average European levels.
The Department of Health has admitted that the use of new anti-cancer drugs in the UK is 60 cent lower than in France, Austria and Switzerland.
The drugs can offer patients between three and six months’ extra life and in some cases several years.