Uncertainty Over Cancer Care Fund

Cancer charities have warned that thousands of cancer patients face uncertainty over future access to life-extending drugs when a cash pot ends next year.

The £200m-a-year Cancer Drugs Fund allows patients in England to access drugs approved by their doctors, but which have not been cleared for widespread use on the NHS. It was designed to make it easier for doctors to prescribe treatments even if they have not yet been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Since late 2010, the fund has paid for treatment for around 28,000 patients, but this will end in 2014 and charities have called on the government to ask what will replace the service.

Charity Beating Bowel Cancer said when the public funding runs out, the drugs may no longer be available, meaning 6,427 patients each year could be denied access to medicines.

Charity Chief Executive Mark Flannagan said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund has improved access to vital medicines for thousands of bowel cancer patients many of whom wouldn't be alive today if they hadn't had the treatment. However, we're very worried that the clock is ticking for future bowel cancer patients.

"Without it we fear patients' lives will be put at risk. We simply can't go backwards to a time when cancer patients had to beg for life-extending treatment."

Health Minister Lord Howe said the government would "make sure there are arrangements in place" from 2014 to protect patients receiving treatment with drugs funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund.

He added: "For the longer term, we are considering ways in which patients can continue to benefit from drugs provided through the fund."


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