A new survey has found that four in five UK adults want the National Health Service to offer levels of access to treatment at least comparable with other countries and are worried about the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund.
The survey, which involved 2,004 people and was commissioned by Novartis, Roche and Sanofi, claims that half of the respondents believe the NHS should be a world leader and “pay for all treatments regardless of how much they cost, going beyond international standard practice”. One in five say the NHS should give greater priority to treating patients who have severe illnesses, while just 5% believe that the service should only pay for drugs up to a certain maximum price.
The drugmakers argue that the findings increase the pressure on the UK Government “to make clear its plans for the Cancer Drugs Fund, as the current arrangements are due to come to an end in early 2014”. Noting that since its introduction, the fund has enabled more than 30,000 patients to access medicines that would otherwise be unobtainable, they claim that 16,000 patients a year would be denied access without it.
Commenting on the findings Mark Flannagan, chief executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said the Government “gave a pledge that if your doctor thinks that you should have a cancer drug that will help you to live a longer and better life you should get that drug”. He added that the Cancer Drugs Fund “has given better access to vital medicines and improved outcomes for thousands of patients”, but “with it due to end, we fear that patients’ lives will be put at risk”.
Mr Flannagan concluded by saying that “we simply can’t go backwards to a time when cancer patients had to beg for life-extending treatment”.