Cancer drugs funding plight

Peter and Christine Newman with some of the letters they have sent out to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris.
Peter and Christine Newman with some of the letters they have sent out to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris.
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A cancer sufferer is campaigning to be prescribed a drug which he says would improve the quality of his life.

Peter Newman, 77, of Hidings Court Lane, Morecambe, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003.

Soon, he will need medication called cabazitaxel, but it will not be available because it is being withdrawn from the Cancer Drugs Funds list on March 12.

Peter’s wife Christine, 68, said: “We have paid into the system all our lives and now we want something it’s not there for us.

“In the long run it’s cheaper because the other older drug has lots of side effects, and you have to be treated for the side effects.

“I have written to national newspapers, MP David Morris and health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy Hunt replied but said there was nothing he could do.

“Patients who have been on the drug for years say their quality of life is just absolutely brilliant.

“I am determined not just for Peter but for our sons, daughter and grandchildren.

“This disease strikes any man at any age.

“Peter is a person, not a number.”

Peter said: “The alternative drug I will have to take was developed in the 1950s and is a very toxic drug.

“I assume cabazitaxel is expensive but people who have been on it say it has improved their quality of life. For breast cancer sufferers there is a big choice of drugs but for prostate cancer sufferers the choice is very limited.

“I was on hormone implants but they stopped working. I was put on implants every three months with another hormone but they didn’t work.

“At the moment I’m on a steroid drug which stabilises my condition. My oncologist said that although at the moment I don’t need the drug, cabazitaxel would be the next one she would put me on. The drug would halt the cancer, which can spread to the bones.”

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) (which has been compiled by the NHS England Clinical Reference Group (CRG) for Chemotherapy) and a practising oncologist, said: “NHS cancer doctors have taken a careful independent look at how we ensure the drugs available offer the best clinical benefit, getting the most for patients from every pound.

“These are difficult decisions, but if we don’t prioritise the drugs that offer the best value, many people could miss out on promising, more effective treatments that are in the pipeline.

“No patient currently getting CDF drugs will miss out, and even for drugs not in the Cancer Drugs Fund, oncologists can apply for individual patient funding.”

A spokesman for NHS England said that:

*Any patient currently receiving a drug through the CDF will continue to receive it, regardless of whether it remains in the CDF.

*Drugs which are the only therapy for the cancer in question will remain available through the CDF.

*If the CDF panel removes a drug for a particular indication, some patients may instead be able to receive it in another line of therapy or receive an alternative CDF approved drug.

*Clinicians can apply for their patient to receive a drug not available through the CDF on an exceptional basis.

The Cancer Drugs Fund review will create projected savings of approximately £100 million through a combination of negotiated price reductions and improved clinical effectiveness.

If action had not been taken to review the CDF drugs list the Fund is projected to have grown to around £420 million next year, necessitating offsetting cuts in other aspects of cancer treatment such as radiotherapy, cancer diagnoses, cancer surgery, and other important NHS services for other patient group.

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said: “Mr Newman has contacted my office and asked for my help.

“I have written to the hospital trust on Mr Newman’s behalf to ascertain the clinical reasoning behind the decision made in this case, and once I have a full response I will be able to raise Mr Newman’s case with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP.

“It is important to note that this year and next £160 million pounds has been pumped into the Cancer drugs fund and drugs which have been removed are only done because there are better and more targeted drugs available.

“However without having the full clinical reasoning for the change in medication from the Trust it would be impossible for me to comment further on this case.”