The Health and Social Care Committee has published its report on cancer services in England in which it recommends that the government “should look to aggressively expedite and roll out new treatments that have gone through trials and aim to innovate around the regulators to ensure a swift uptake in the UK”. The report looks at how differences in cancer survival rates between the UK and other countries have arisen and how the government should resolve them.
The report’s key findings in relation to cancer drugs are:
- Access to cancer drugs is an “ongoing issue”
- Decisions on whether the medicine is value for money for the national health service (NHS) (ie taken by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NICE) take too long, and then the commission decision is also taking too long
- Even where medicines are recommended for use in the NHS, there is a delay to their widespread uptake by doctors in the NHS
- NICE frequently recommends for use new cancer drugs for a smaller patient group than initially intended (‘optimised recommendations’), which contrasts with other European countries such as Germany and Italy where access tends not to be restricted
- There is slower uptake of new cancer treatments outside of major treatment centres
- “Despite the effectiveness of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency [MHRA]’s regulatory process, and despite some progress by NICE in approving medicines more efficiently for use in the NHS, the whole process is still too slow”. The report goes on to acknowledge that whilst NICE’s recent review of its processes and methods (link to Lauren’s article from 1st Feb) should support access to innovative medicines, it also emphasises that the review alone will “not remove the gap between the MHRA’s regulatory process and NICE’s approval for use in the NHS”.
To address these issues the report goes on recommend that “As part of its new cancer plan, the Government should include a plan for how to better align the technology appraisals carried out by NICE with the regulatory process applied by the MHRA, in order to reduce the delay between a drug being approved by the MHRA and recommended for use in the NHS by NICE. The Government should also review the uptake of NICE-approved treatments in the NHS and ensure that its new cancer plan includes measures to improve the pace of adoption of newly-approved treatments in the NHS on a fair and equitable basis”.
Reacting to publication of the report, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) stated, “We are pleased that the report reflects concerns about variable access to cancer medicines. We support the Committee’s recommendations to ‘aggressively expedite and roll out new medicines’ that have gone through trials and to ensure regulatory innovation results in swift uptake in the UK.
“The upcoming 10 Year Cancer Plan is an opportunity to ensure NHS patients are able to access the latest cancer medicines and treatments.”
- www.abpi.org, “ABPI response to Commons cancer services report”, 5th April 2022
- http://committees.parliament.uk, “Twelfth report: cancer services”, 5th April 2022