Local MP demands a fair price for life-extending breast cancer drugs

Warley MP John Spellar has joined charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer in its call for fairer access to life-extending breast cancer drugs.

Concerns were raised at the charity’s annual Parliamentary Reception on the routine availability of, and inflated prices being set for, vital treatments that can offer women living with incurable breast cancer extra time with their loved ones, free from many of the side effects associated with traditional cancer therapies.

Following the event, John Spellar has committed to working with Breakthrough to ensure that  women in Sandwell have access to the breast cancer drugs they need, raising this issue in parliament and prioritising the clear calls to action laid out as part of the first phase of the Demand a Fair Price campaign.

A number of innovative new breast cancer drugs have been rejected for routine use on the NHS and are only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which the government introduced as a temporary measure. The Cancer Drugs Fund is only available to patients in England until 2016 and Breakthrough Breast Cancer for long-term reform of the drug pr4icing system, to give patients across the UK the certainty that they will be able to access the drugs they need at prices the NHS can afford.

John Spellar MP said:

“I’m supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer in their call for all political parties, including my own, to commit to solving the issues that currently exist around access to drugs in the UK. If there was an easy solution to this problem we would have it by now. This will come from negotiations and ongoing discussion with pharmaceutical companies, regulators and charities to create a new system which will ensure all cancer patients can access the drugs they need at a fair price to the NHS.

“We’ve come a long way in developing new and better drugs for breast cancer but to keep moving towards a future where women can live longer feeling well, spend less time in hospital with debilitating side effects and more time with their families, and keep working if they are able to, we need to find a way to guarantee access to the drugs that can make this possible.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said:

“We are determined to stop breast cancer for good, and making sure every woman receives the treatment she needs is the first step. In the last year alone, three promising drugs for secondary breast cancer have been rejected for routine use on the NHS due to their high cost.

“The Cancer Drugs Fund was only supposed to be a temporary solution and, while it should remain until a workable alternative is found, it is merely papering over the cracks of a system which is no longer fit for purpose.

“Innovative, effective drugs sitting on the shelf are of no use to anybody, least of all patients. Whilst there will be no quick fix solution to this problem, the pharmaceutical industry will need to get serious about its pricing and whoever forms the next government will need to get a grip on the problem and take action to resolve it.

“Until we have a sustainable, UK-wide system in place, the future availability of the treatments that regulators are being continually forced to reject will remain uncertain.”

Heather Lawrence, who has been living with secondary breast cancer since 2008, said:

“The myth that women like me are all spending our days suffering and immobile getting more and more ill still endures despite the fact that it is no longer the case for many people.

“The formidable cost of new tailored treatments is a hurdle, but don’t forget that we are mothers, sisters, daughters; we run our households, we work and pay our bills, we are responsible for raising the next generation, we matter to a whole network of lives around us. When we die, the shockwaves radiate outwards, and every life in that network is touched for the worse leaving a tear in the fabric of our families and our communities.”

Three clear calls to action were laid out as part of the Demand a Fair Price campaign which in the short term is pushing for:

Commitment from all political parties to extend the Cancer Drugs Fund in England until the end of the next parliament.

All political parties to commit within their manifestos to finding a long-term, UK wide solution to the problem of lack of routine access to life-extending drugs by the end of the next parliament, working with the pharmaceutical industry and patient groups.

The Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies to introduce a similar system to the Cancer Drugs Fund to ensure that patients get access to the drugs they need.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer want to change the story for every woman, for every family, for good and are committed to working closely with government, industry and stakeholders to develop and embed a new system of drug pricing and evaluation.

To help demand a fair price for life-extending drugs, take action now at www.breakthrough.org.uk/demandafairprice.

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