Report Reveals Postcode Lottery On Cancer Drug Access

HSCIC Analyses Expected And Actual Use Of Key Treatments

23.01.2014

A new study by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has suggested that a number of cancer patients and sufferers of other illnesses are not getting access to vital drugs that they need.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Health, examined the use of medicines which have been approved as an option for treatment of diseases and conditions by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), comparing expected with actual use for 18 medicines.

It was found that while the use of some drugs was higher than expected, it was also found that some drugs’ usage was below the expected level.

Among those identified as being in low use were carmustine implants for the treatment of a form of brain tumour, sunitinib and pazopanib for the treatment of renal cell cancer and motor neurone disease treatment, riluzole.

The approval of NICE means that all patients who require such treatments should be given them.

Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, told the Daily Telegraph that the research highlighted “an endemic postcode lottery in access to NICE-approved medicines”.

The report has come after concerns were raised regarding NICE plans to change the criteria on how drug funding is allocated, with a consultation set to be held in February.

Expert Opinion
These new figures have indicated very serious concerns that people may simply not being get access to the drugs that they have a right to and need to support their treatment for serious illnesses.

"As mentioned by the Rarer Cancer Foundation, the ultimate issue is that it suggests access to some drugs may be dependent on where a patient lives – a clear and worrying postcode lottery which should not exist.

"Access to drugs is a vital issue and it is hugely important that all patients are treated equally. It is vital that both NHS and NICE examine these findings and assess what can be done to improve availability of the relevant drugs to guarantee they are making their way to everyone who needs them."
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate