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Access to cancer drug fund urged


Liver cancer patients have asked the Government for immediate access to the new Cancer Drug Fund to buy potentially life-extending medicines.

The fund has been set up so cancer sufferers can get hold of drugs which their doctor thinks could benefit them but which are not widely available.

Kate Spall, who founded the Pamela Northcott Fund after her mother’s death in 2007, said patients would be asking the Government for immediate help, even though the fund is not due to run until April next year.

It comes after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) rejected an appeal by manufacturer Bayer over the drug Nexavar (sorafenib).

NICE said it could not approve Nexavar for use on the NHS for advanced liver cancer because its “high cost could not be justified by its marginal benefit”.

Normal life expectancy for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma is less than two years.

Evidence seen by NICE suggests Nexavar can increase survival by an extra 2.8 months on average, but at a cost of £27,000 per patient.

Half of the patients who gained some benefit received less than this amount of additional life, NICE said.

Ms Spall said the Pamela Northcott Fund had helped more than 250 cancer patients successfully access cancer treatments that were previously refused.

She said: “I have been extremely heartened by the Conservative manifesto for cancer patients and this is an opportunity for the new coalition government to realise their policy commitment in ensuring that cancer patients access licensed treatments recommended by their clinician.

“Whilst the policy pledge is due in April 2011, today we are asking the Government to bring this date forward for the 400 liver cancer patients who will benefit from Nexavar.”

Exact details of how the Cancer Drug Fund will operate have yet to be released by the Government.

Copyright Press Association 2010

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