UK wants to offer new cancer drugs before clearancesDecember 5th, 2011 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS
London, Dec 5 (IANS) Thousands of cancer patients in Britain who have exhausted every option would be offered a “last chance” by trying drugs a year before doctors are allowed to prescribe them, a media report said Monday.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to speed up the time it takes between a life-extending treatment being invented and it being given to the sickest patients.
The process can take up to 20 years, but Cameron was expected to announce plans for an “early-access scheme” that would enable drugs to be fast-tracked through months of bureaucracy, according to the Daily Mail.
The government insisted this would not mean bypassing safety checks or putting patients at risk.
It is hoped that the system will especially benefit patients with brain tumours, lung cancers or other rarer forms of cancer, for which there are very few drugs available.
Last month a report showed that survival rates for brain, lung, stomach and pancreatic cancer had barely improved since the 1970s, with most patients not living beyond a year.
By contrast, the chances of beating breast and bowel cancer had more than doubled over the same period.
This process can take more than a year. Firms have to submit data proving the treatment is both highly effective and safe which is then scrutinised by various panels.
Even when a drug has been given the green light, it must be approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), the rationing body, before it can be prescribed to patients on the NHS (National Health Service). This can take another 18 months.
And if NICE deems the treatment too costly, it will be available only to patients who pay privately or those who secure funding from the Cancer Drugs Fund, the daily said.
But under the early access scheme, the MHRA will provisionally recommend certain drugs that have not yet been through the lengthy approval process.
Patients and their doctors will be given detailed information about the treatment so that they can decide whether they want to use it. If they agree, the patients would be given the drug free on the NHS.
Ministers hope that the new system will encourage more drugs firms, particularly smaller companies, to develop new treatments.
A few patients can already benefit from drugs which are not yet available in Britain by taking part in clinical trials, but this is dependent on whether their doctor knows about the drugs.
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