The UK boss of one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies has said that he would “not want to be a cancer patient in England”. Erik Nordkamp’s remarks to the Telegraph came just ahead of the closing of a 12-week consultation on how patients get access to breakthrough medication via the cancer drugs fund.
Mr Nordkamp, managing director of Pfizer UK, highlighted that England had one of the worst outcomes for cancer patients among the OECD club of rich nations today. Furthermore, he said that England is one of the worst countries in the world – if not the worst – for ensuring that cancer patients get the breakthrough drugs they so often need.
In England, survival rates for breast cancer, which is one of the most treatable forms, are still well below those seen in countries such as France, Sweden and Italy. In fact, the rates witnessed in England today are comparable to those seen in the aforementioned countries in the late 1990s.
Referring to the government’s proposals for the cancer drugs fund, Mr Nordkamp said that the clock would be set back five years if they went through and patients would end up being failed.
“If the proposals for the cancer drugs fund go through, we will have a repeat of 2011 when treatments weren’t getting through to patients and it will be going back to the status quo,” he said.
Under the government’s proposed reforms, Nice would still oversee the cancer drugs fund through NHS England and patients would gain temporary access to breakthrough medication.
However, if evidence collected after a set period showed that the outcomes aren’t cost effective enough, the drug become de-listed.
Pfizer ‘Really Concerned’
According to Mr Nordkamp, a complete overhaul of the system is needed, which is why he has criticised the government’s proposals as a “wasted opportunity”.
He said that Pfizer has sent a letter to the Prime Minister about the proposal, adding: “We are really concerned that the new proposals are not a solution”.
Mr Nordkamp went on to say that while other countries are striving to continually adapt their approaches to drug approval frameworks as technology advances, England’s system has remained unchanged for 16 years.
This is problematic, he said, because Nice has not kept up with advances in medical technology over the years.
Moreover, Mr Nordkamp referred to the fact that our understanding of cancer has significantly changed. It is no longer considered as just one disease, but rather hundreds of “unique diseases”, all of which require care to be targeted to the specific individual.
For this reason, he believes Nice’s approach to testing methodologies is no longer fit for purpose, as the days of prescribing one cancer drug to every sufferer are long gone.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “For those drug companies willing to price their products affordably while sharing transparent information about ‘real world’ patient benefit, the new cancer drugs fund will offer a new fast-track route to NHS funding”.
Last year Cancer Research UK changed its forecast to say 1 in 2 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer. When this happens, it is really important patients have access to the most effective treatment. It is distressing for patients when they know the drugs exist but cannot get access to them. Many private medical insurers allow patients access to drugs which NICE will not approve due to cost so it seems a missed opportunity that the Cancer Drug Fund is being reviewed but the proposals may still leave people without the treatment they need if they are relying on the NHS.
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