Cancer Patients Being Denied Drugs Recommended By Their Doctors

In Healthcare, Individual, Industry News by Claire Ginnelly

One in six cancer patients is being denied drugs recommended by their doctors or have experienced delays in receiving them, a survey has found.

The poll of 1,064 cancer patients conducted by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London – a charity and world leader in cancer drug discovery – found that 16% of patients had been denied a cancer drug recommended by their consultant or faced delays receiving it.

Furthermore, almost half of those who have tried to enroll in clinical trials of new treatments have been unable to do so.

The ICR says too many cancer patients are being denied drugs or experiencing delays receiving them because the NHS rationing bodies are not prioritising new types of treatment.

The ICR’s new 10-point cancer drug manifesto calls for action to speed up access to innovative drugs.

According to previous research by the ICR, it takes more than 14 years for a cancer drug to go from the patent stage to being approved for use by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). As part of its manifesto, the charity is urging NICE to prioritise genuinely innovative cancer treatments that attack the disease in new ways, and calling on drug regulators to be more flexible when it comes to assessing evidence so that new drugs can reach patients as quickly as possible.

The ICR also says that radical action is needed to reduce the often extremely high prices of modern cancer drugs. One way to do this, the charity says, is by pricing drugs based on their effectiveness, i.e. how successful they are in treating patients.

Drug research and clinical trials involving children should also be expanded and the age limits for such trials should be more flexible so that more young people can benefit from potentially innovative new treatments, the charity says.

More collaboration between drug companies needed

Finally, the ICR would like to see rival drug companies collaborating more in the interests of patients and trialling their drugs together. Such an approach could lead to combination cancer treatments being made available, much like the ones used in the fight against HIV.

When it comes to how patients perceive NICE’s role in determining which drugs get approved for NHS use, 40% of cancer patients said they supported the role NICE plays, compared with 29% who did not. However, only 16% of patients agreed that NICE was performing its role well.

Interestingly, cancer patients have a much dimmer view of pharmaceutical companies, with only 12% saying they are doing well at delivering new medicines.

I find it so disappointing when I read articles like this and hear that cancer patients are not getting access to NICE approved cancer drugs on the NHS. It is highly likely these drugs would be available on many PMI policies. Although another good reason to have PMI, all cancer patients should have access to drugs which are NICE approved.

Claire Ginnelly is the Managing Director of Premier Choice Health and has been in the private medical insurance industry since 1991. All her experience has been gained working for large insurance companies managing the distribution of health insurance products through intermediaries. She has held senior positions within Standard Life Healthcare, as Head of Intermediary Sales, and Groupama Healthcare, as Head of Distribution.