As many as 6,500 (6,427(1)) new patients a year in England could be denied access to life-extending medicines when the Government’s special Cancer Drugs Fund comes to an end at the beginning of next year, according to new research by the charity Beating Bowel Cancer.
It is warning that time is running out for the Department of Health to come up with a workable alternative to how expensive cancer drugs will be funded beyond January 2014. The charity has written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to demand intervention and clear guidance on how a new system of funding will work. Beating Bowel Cancer says this is urgently needed to ensure that bowel cancer patients will continue to access the drugs that have been clinically proven to successfully treat the disease.
Data collated by Beating Bowel Cancer from a Parliamentary Question tabled in the House of Commons and figures released by the Rarer Cancers Foundation have been used to calculate the future demand for life-extending drugs and reveal the extent to which bowel cancer patients are likely to be affected by the changes.
Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund has improved access to vital medicines for thousands of bowel cancer patients; many of whom wouldn’t be alive today if they hadn’t had the treatment.
“However, we’re very worried that the clock is ticking for future bowel cancer patients. The uncertainty around how these drugs will be funded in the years to come will mean patients who could benefit from having treatment in the future, may be denied access because the money isn’t there to fund it.
“It is vital that the funding remains in place to ensure that bowel cancer patients will continue to get access to the drugs which their doctors say they need on the NHS. Without it we fear patients’ lives will be put at risk. We simply can’t go backwards to a time when cancer patients had to beg for life-extending treatment.”
The Fund, which is worth about £200million a year, was introduced to help doctors who were having difficulty accessing the expensive cancer drugs which they believed would help their patients because they weren’t routinely available on the NHS.
Over 10,000 (10,068(2)) bowel cancer patients have been given greater access to expensive cancer chemotherapy drugs which their doctors had recommended, thanks to money released by the Cancer Drugs Fund. As a result, many of them have been able to spend precious extra time with their families and friends. Figures also show that in the three years since the Fund came into being, more bowel cancer patients have benefited (36%) compared to blood cancers (20%) and breast cancer (14%) (3).
Beating Bowel Cancer has developed its Access Alerts for Bowel Cancer to highlight regional variations in access to bowel cancer drugs, radiotherapy and bowel cancer surgery. The access alerts are intended to provide a comprehensive picture of access to cancer treatment in England, broken down by region and where possible, by local hospital trusts. The charity is due to publish the next update later in April.
Beating Bowel Cancer Research:
(1,2)Beating Bowel Cancer extrapolated an estimate for the number of bowel cancer patients who have benefitted from the Fund and the future demand based on a response to a Parliamentary Question and research from the Rarer Cancers Foundation on applications to the Cancer Drugs Fund.For further details on these calculations, please follow this link.
The drugs available via the CDF for bowel cancer include: bevacizumab, cetuximab, pantiumumab and Yttrium-90 microspheres.
(3) Break down of applications to the Fund by cancer type
The Rarer Cancers Foundation has identified categories of cancer drugs that have been funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund (see Figure 4, page 25)
- Colorectal – 36%
- Haemato-oncology – 20%
- Breast – 14%
Source: Rarer Cancers Foundation, There when you need it the most? The Cancer Drugs Fund: annual report 2011-12, August 2012, available here.
About bowel cancer 4
- Bowel Cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer
- Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK
- The majority of people diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 50
- Bowel cancer is more treatable if spotted and diagnosed early
- Over 93 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage survive for at least five years compared with less than 7% of those diagnosed at a late stage
4 Key Facts about Bowel Cancer. Cancer Research UK CancerStats.
Source: Beating Bowel Cancer