Vital Funding for Cancer Patients; Health Reporter HELEN RAE Examines Why More People in the Region Are Gaining Access to Lifeextending Cancer Drugs

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN RAE

MORE patients across the North East are benefiting from new treatments funded by money allocated to the region for cancer treatment by the Government.

The North of England Cancer Drug Approvals Group (NECDAG) agreed at its recent meeting to use some of the cancer drug fund for treatments for patients with bladder and pancreatic cancers.

The new treatments are Vinflunine for patients with bladder cancer after initial treatment has failed and Sunitiub for a rare form of pancreatic cancer (pancreatic neuroendocrine cancers).

In April, the Government announced that the North East would receive a pounds 11.3m share of the national pounds 200m fund to spend on cancer drugs not funded by the NHS during 2011/12.

This follows an interim allocation of pounds 2.8m received last autumn, which has helped 180 patients in the North East.

Graham Jackson, consultant haematologist with NECDAG, said: "These additional funds represent potential benefits for some patients seeking cancer treatment.

"Because we already had a process in place for agreeing cancer drugs via NECDAG in the region, we were able to bring our experiences together to work in an innovative and collaborative way and ensure more patients can access potentially life-enhancing drugs, fairly, quickly and when they need them the most.

"As soon as the funding was announced we were able to agree applications with consultants and agree treatments for patients with breast cancer, bowel cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, early bone marrow cancer, renal cancer, primary liver cancer and blood cancer."

Ken Bremner, chair of NECDAG, who is also chief executive of City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, added: "We are very pleased to have this additional money to use on new cancer treatments because it means we are able to provide drugs that we would otherwise not have been able to.

"Before we had this additional money for cancer drugs, we had to make very difficult decisions about the funding of expensive treatments, which we know offer only a limited extension to life and sometimes which have shown relatively small clinical benefits.

"However, we recognise how important it is to patients and their families to have access to these treatments and we know that these decisions will be very much welcomed by clinicians and by patients and their families."

Over the coming year, doctors working in cancer care will continue to bring new applications for new treatments that have not been considered by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to NECDAG.

Those that do not meet the criteria for mainstream NHS funding will be made available through the cancer drugs fund. …