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Cancer patients ‘denied drugs recommended by their doctor’

Charity calls for NICE to prioritise innovative treatments

Around 16% of cancer patients have been denied a drug recommended by their doctor or have experienced delays in receiving it, a survey shows.

The poll of 1,000 cancer patients also found nearly half of those who have tried to enrol in clinical trials of new treatments have been unable to do so.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is urging NICE to prioritise genuinely innovative cancer treatments that attack cancer in new ways. It said these which will provide new tools to overcome drug resistance.

It also said radical action is needed to bring down the extremely high prices of modern cancer drugs; drug regulators need to be more flexible in assessing evidence; rival drug companies should be incentivised to trial their medicines together; and drug research and clinical trials for children should be expanded.

The poll found 40% of cancer patients said they supported the role NICE plays in determining which drugs are suitable for NHS use – compared with 29% who did not. But only 16% of patients agreed that NICE was carrying out its role well, with 35% disagreeing.

Patients have major concerns about the role of pharmaceutical companies, with only 12% believing they are doing well at delivering new medicines.

Cancer patients overwhelmingly believe that the high prices charged by pharmaceutical companies are the biggest barrier to gaining access to new cancer drugs – with 70% saying they thought the prices charged by companies were much too high.

Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR, said: “Our manifesto calls for action to supercharge the passage of the most innovative cancer drugs through clinical trials, licensing and NICE appraisal, and into the NHS. We need drug regulators and NICE to be faster and more flexible in their assessment of evidence, especially for the most innovative treatments. And it’s crucial also to address the extremely high prices of cancer drugs, which researchers and patients agree are the biggest barrier to getting them to patients.”