According to two UK cancer charities, thousands of NHS patients could be missing out on cancer treatments they would receive in other “similar” countries.
Breast Cancer Now and Prostate Cancer UK claim in their recent report, “International Comparisons of Health Technology Assessment,” that the UK’s “rigid” appraisal system restricts the drugs available on the NHS, more so than in Germany, France, Australia, Canada and Sweden.
For example, the breast cancer drug, Kadcycla (trastuzumab-emtansine) is available free in Germany, Canada and France, whereas in England it can only be accessed through the Cancer Drugs Funds, and not at all in Scotland and Wales.
The appraisal system, they argue, stifles price negotiation. They are calling on the Secretary of State for Health to review the current role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, plus to work on renegotiating the current arrangements for the Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulation Scheme (PPRS) in time for 2018.
Dr Paul Catchpole, Director Value and Access at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, argues it is "too simplistic" to blame the problem merely on an inability to negotiate with drug producers.
He feels that the entire assessment process has not kept pace with treatment developments. For example, NICE relies on an assessment of basic cost-effectiveness that has remained the same for more than 15 years.
In his view, part of the problem is that modern drugs are more effective at extending life, according to him they “would be rejected by NICE even if they were given away free due to the fact that patients are taking them for longer.”