NHS cancer patients are being denied the drugs they need because pharmaceutical firms are charging the health service such high prices that some treatments can no longer be offered.
According to a new study, although certain cancer drugs are cheap to produce and are widely available abroad at a lower cost, some manufacturers are charging the NHS twice as much as other countries for the same treatment.
Researchers from Liverpool University found that the price of breast cancer drug ‘lapatinib’ which is also known as ‘Tyverb’ costs £24,000 per patient per year in the UK but is offered for just £11,600 in Thailand. ‘Imatinib’ of ‘Gleevec’ which is used for leukaemia as well as some other cancers costs £20,900 in the UK compared to £18,800 in France and just £5,500 in Russia. Equally, liver cancer drug ‘Sorafenib’ or ‘Nexavar’ costs £37,500 in the UK, £32,600 in Spain and £29,200 in France.
This month, NHS England announced that 16 drugs were being axed from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) because they were deemed too expensive. These include medicines for breast cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, multiple myeloma and leukaemia. The CDF pays for drugs that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reject as too expensive for NHS use.
The Rarer Cancers Foundation, which campaigned to establish the fund in 2011, say more than 5,000 NHS cancer patients who may well have benefitted from the axed medicines will now no longer be given the chance to access them.
Cancer charities have described the NHS England decision as a “hammer blow” for patients that will undoubtedly shorten lives.
Liverpool University academic, Dr Andrew Hill, the lead author of the cancer drug cost analysis, said cancer patients were being “short-changed.” His findings will be unveiled at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna next week.
“Some of the drugs which have been recently removed from the cancer drugs fund are actually very cheap to manufacture… If these cancer drugs could be introduced to the UK at these lower prices, they would be affordable and patients could benefit from them…”
It is disappointing to say the least that patients are being denied the most effective cancer treatments because some pharmaceutical firms are putting profits first. The removal of so many medicines for NHS use is a devastating decision that could have a significant effect on the hopes of thousands of patients these drugs could have helped.
Lapatinib is a life-extending pill for breast cancer and it is unacceptable that so many women are now being blocked access to treatments that could give them priceless extra time spent with their loved ones.
Around 10,000 lives are lost each year in the UK because Britain lags behind the best in the world at treating cancer. A huge number of these deaths could be prevented if patients were referred for treatment earlier.
Reasons why cancer survival rates are lower in the UK than elsewhere include the lack of direct access and long waiting lists for CT and MRI scans compared to other countries, GPs ordering fewer blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds, and cost pressures. If the availability of cheaper cancer drugs in the UK could improve treatment, it would naturally be a very welcome development.
Slater and Gordon help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence.