Over 5,000 cancer patients are to be denied life-extending drugs under plans which charities say are a “dreadful” step backwards for the NHS.
Charities say that the whole system of NHS funding for medicines is now in chaos.
The Telegraph reports: Health officials have just announced sweeping restrictions on treatment, which will mean patients with breast, bowel, skin and pancreatic cancer will no longer be able to receive drugs funded by the NHS.
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In total, 17 cancer drugs for 25 different indications will no longer be paid for in future.
Charities said the direction the health service was heading in could set progress back by centuries.
The Cancer Drugs Fund was launched in 2011, following a manifesto pledge by David Cameron, who said patients should no longer be denied drugs on cost grounds.
Since its launch four years ago it has benefitted more than 50,000 patients, who received treatment which NHS rationing bodies had refused to pay for.
But now the fund’s budget is massively overspent.
At the start of this year, health officials announced plans to stop funding 25 treatments received by 8,000 patients.
After appeal, six treatments were saved. Now a second round of cuts will see NHS funding stopped for 25 more which have been hailed as some of the most promising, for those with no other hope.
The decision means that in total, two thirds of all treatments which were paid for by the scheme will no longer be paid for by the NHS.
Drugs which will no longer be funded include Kadcyla for advanced breast cancer, Avastin for many bowel and breast cancer patients, Revlimid and Imnovid for multiple myeloma, and Abraxane, the first treatment for pancreatic cancer in 17 years.
Breast cancer charities said they were particularly concerned about Kadcyla, currently prescribed to around 800 women a year, which has been shown to extend life by an average of six months, with fewer side effectives than any alternatives.
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Care, said: “This devastating decision will mean shattered hopes for thousands of women who could have been helped by these drugs.
“It is completely unacceptable that, in 2015, this inflexible system is blocking access to life-extending treatments, like Kadcyla. Treatments that could give people valuable extra time with their loved ones, and help them continue to contribute to society for many months or even years.
“We desperately hope these failings will be tackled by the new system. However, we are extremely concerned that until this new system is up and running patients will continue to face huge uncertainty over access to drugs. It is crucial the needs of those with incurable breast cancer are placed at the heart this process.”
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now said: “This is a dreadful day for breast cancer patients.