Drugs fund report welcomed

Proposed changes to NI’s current drug approval process have been welcomed by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.

Following the charity’s Equal Access campaign for the same access to cancer drugs for Northern Ireland patients as those living in England, Health Minister Jim Wells announced a review in May last year of the current Individual Funding Request (IFR) process.

The IFR process is intended to provide access to unapproved specialist drugs for patients where there is an agreed clinical need, but currently denies access to 95% of patients in the initial stages of their request. These drugs are only available by exception to patients in Northern Ireland, mostly because they are deemed too costly by the NICE approving body.

Mr Wells today (Feb 17, 2015) announced four key recommendations from the IFR review: to remove the 95% exceptionality clause that denies most applicants access to the drugs; to establish a committee to scrutinize IFR applications; to revise IFR guidelines to offer greater transparency of the process; and to establish a Specialist Medicine Fund to provide greater access to these specialist drugs.  He also announced a 12 week consultation.

Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive, said: “We welcome today’s focus by the Minister on this issue and the opportunity to meet with him again in person. We see these recommendations as a great step in the campaign towards securing equal access for patients here.

“Cancer Focus NI believes that the most appropriate mechanism to fund cancer drugs is a matter for our politicians to decide.

“We believe there is no greater legacy for this Assembly than to deliver on Equal Access to cancer drugs on behalf of Northern Ireland’s cancer patients.  Cancer Focus NI will be taking our Equal Access campaign to the Assembly Health committee tomorrow (Wednesday) to urge them to play a leading role in finding an agreed funding solution to deliver equal access to cancer medicines.”

Cancer Focus NI, along with 14 other charities, launched the Equal Access Campaign to highlight the gross inequity that exists for cancer patients in Northern Ireland. There are now 40 drugs that are not readily available to cancer patients locally but that are freely available to patients living in England.

Photo: Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA and Tracy Martin, campaigner.  

Notes :

  • The Equal Access Campaign is calling for local cancer patients to be given the same access to cancer medicines as patients in England, Scotland and shortly Wales.
  • The campaign is asking the NI Assembly to scrap the unfair ‘exceptionality’ clause, designed to prevent 95% of cancer patients gaining access to new drugs and put in place the funding needed to give Equal Access to cancer drugs without any further delay.
  • The campaign is being led by Cancer Focus NI, partnered by Daily Mirror NI and supported by 14 local charities including: Action Cancer, Angels of Hope, Cancer Choices, Cancer Connect, Cancer Lifeline, Care for Cancer, Family Care in Cancer, Foyle Hospice, Friends of the Cancer Centre, Lilac, NI Cancer Fund for Children, NI Hospice, Pretty ‘n’ Pink and the Southern Area Hospice.
  • Since the official campaign was launched in June,over 26,000 emails and postcards  have been sent to the Health Minister, MLAs, MPs and MEPs, supporting Equal Access for cancer patients in Northern Ireland

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