Cancer Focus NI is urging local people to attend their local public meeting to voice their opinions on how to improve access to specialist drugs.
The DHSSPS has organised a series of meetings across Northern Ireland (details below) intended to provide an opportunity for public discussion of the recently announced proposed changes to the current drugs approval system.
24 March 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – Lecture Room 1, Altnagelvin Area Hospital, Glenshane Road, Londonderry BT47 6SB
31 March 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – Lakeview 2, Craigavon Civic Centre, Lakeview Road, Craigavon BT64 1AL
13 April 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – The Chestnut Suite, Lagan Valley Island Civic Centre, Lisburn BT27 4RL
16 April 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – The Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniksillen BT74 6RW
21 April 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – Antrim Civic Centre, 50 Stiles Way, Antrim BT41 2UB
28 April 2015 (7pm – 8.30pm) – Belfast City Hospital, 51 Lisburn Rd, Belfast BT9 7AB
An evaluation of the existing system – the Individual Funding Request (IFR) – was commissioned by Health Minister Jim Wells last year and five recommendations have now been made outlining ways to improve access to drugs that are not routinely available.
This follows a high-profile Equal Access campaign led by Cancer Focus NI and backed by 14 other local cancer charities.
The IFR process is intended to provide access to unapproved specialist drugs for patients where there is an agreed clinical need, but it currently denies access to 95% of patients in the initial stages of their request. The new recommendations include plans to remove the 95% barrier, plus a proposal to re-introduce prescription charges to pay for a new Specialist Medicines Fund.
Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive, said: “At the moment there are a number of drugs that are not readily available to cancer patients here that are freely available to patients living in England. We are campaigning for equal access for Northern Ireland patients.
“We see these new recommendations as a great step towards securing equal access for patients here. If you’re a patient, a carer, a member of health and social care staff or just interested in our health services, we’d encourage you to attend the public meeting in your area and give your views on the best way forward.”
Mrs Foster added: “Cancer Focus NI regrets that the issue of equal access to cancer drugs and the re-introduction of prescription charges have become linked. We believe there are a number of other ways to fund a Specialist Medicines Fund which could give immediate access.
“These include using the rebate from the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) to give access to new drugs, which it was originally set up to do. £30m from the PPRS is expected to be returned to DHSSPS this year alone, while only £6m – 8m is needed to give Equal Access to cancer drugs here.
“Alternative funding methods include increased prescribing of cheaper, generic drugs, and a review of the items currently available on prescription. This funding issue will be a key topic of discussion for the NI public to respond to via these meetings.
“This campaign is at a critical stage. The Health Minister has finally conceded that the current system is not delivering. We urge the public to back us once more by attending your local public consultation meeting, and support the call that the relatively small amount of funding be put in place immediately to give Equal Access to cancer drugs.”