Cardiff, United Kingdom (PressExposure) February 23, 2012 -- The government Cancer Drugs Fund enables cancer sufferers without private medical cover to benefit from treatment not available on the NHS. However, with a postcode lottery dictating the availability of this service, and with the initiative due to end in 2014, Brits may soon need to look for alternative ways of accessing lifesaving cancer drugs like Avastin, Abiraterone and Yervoy.
The Cancer Drugs Fund was set up in 2010 to give patients without private medical cover the chance to be treated with drugs deemed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as too expensive for the NHS. Patients can apply through their doctors for the funds which are then administered by health authorities across England.
Avastin is one of these drugs available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, licensed for use on breast cancers, colon cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, kidney cancers, lung cancers, ovarian cancer and rectal cancer. Although Avastin is licensed and can be prescribed in the UK, it has not been approved for use on the NHS because it is not considered cost-effective. Consequently, the drug is only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund or through private medical insurance. Self-pay patients would be set back around £21,000 for a course of Avastin.
Abiraterone is another drug available through the Fund. Abiraterone is a hormone based therapy drug which blocks the generation of testosterone in the tumours of men with late-stage prostate cancer. Trials of abiraterone found that it extended a patient's life by an average of 4 months. Although it was licenced for use in the UK, NICE has decided that the drug is too expensive for use in the NHS in England. Abiraterone is now only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund or private medical insurance. Self-pay patients pay around £3,000 a month for treatment with Abiraterone.
Skin cancer drug Yervoy has also been turned down by NICE for use on the NHS. Yervoy is the first medicine proven to extend the lives of patients with advanced melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. But the four necessary injections of Yervoy cost almost £80,000 per person in total. NICE has concluded that funding the drug would not be a cost effective use of NHS resources. Now, the only way people can be treated with Yervoy is through the Cancer Drugs Fund or through private medical insurance.
Whilst the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped thousands of patients get access to expensive cancer treatment, recent figures show that a postcode lottery is limiting the availability of drugs in certain parts of the country. Each health authority in England is awarded a budget to spend on cancer drugs from the Fund, ranging from around £9million to £30million depending on population size. But the Rarer Cancers Foundation has revealed that in some areas of the country less than one fifth of the money has been spent. In underspent regions, cancer patients are being turned away.
Richard Theo, of health insurance comparison website ActiveQuote.com said: "Rather than relying on the Cancer Drugs Fund for access to drugs like Avastin, Yervoy and Abiraterone you could compare health insurance policies online. Private medical insurance complements the service provided by the National Health Service, and would guarantee you treatment with licensed drugs even if they are not approved by NICE."
And with the Cancer Drugs Fund due to end in 2014, private medical insurance will give you peace of mind about you and your family's healthcare for years to come.