Scores of cancer patients in region benefit from new drugs fund

SCORES of cancer patients from Yorkshire have benefited from a new drugs fund to finance treatment which would otherwise be denied them by the NHS.

Some 176 people were given approval for drugs in the six months to March at an average cost of £31,000 each over a full year of treatment thanks to the fund which was a key Conservative election pledge.

A total of £5.5m has been committed over 12 months for treatment in Yorkshire using 23 drugs on a “priority medicines list”.

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The cheapest costs £5,000 for a year’s treatment but the most expensive will cost as much as £100,000 for a single patient.

Doctors made 29 successful applications for the drug cetuximab for colorectal cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body, and another 26 were made for lapatinib, which is mainly used in advanced breast cancer.

Nine different drugs for 51 patients were approved for cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Ministers have announced the budget will swell to around £20m each year in Yorkshire until 2014 under the programme which is designed to end postcode lotteries in access to cancer drugs.

The Government had previously said it would be funded with new cash but it has since emerged that £140m of the £200m nationally used for the initiative will be clawed back from primary care trusts.

Labour had worked up plans to give patients with a range of other conditions earlier access to other medicines which are not yet licensed for use. The scheme was approved by a working group of experts but on Friday it was quietly announced that Ministers had decided not to progress with the proposal.