UK & World News
NHS' Life-Extending Cancer Drug Fund Extended
Funding to pay for life-extending drugs for cancer patients is to be extended, the Prime Minister has announced.
The £200m-a-year Cancer Drugs Fund was set up for patients in England to access drugs approved by doctors but which have not been given the go-ahead for widespread use on the NHS.
The scheme was designed to make it easier for doctors to prescribe treatments even if they have not yet been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
It had been set to run until 2014 and campaigners raised concerns about where patients would turn to when the funding ceased. But David Cameron said the funding programme will run for another two years to March 2016.
The Rarer Cancers Foundation, which campaigned for the fund to be extended, welcomed the announcement.
Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the charity, said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund has made a huge difference to cancer patients in England, significantly improving the quality of treatment available to people with advanced forms of cancer.
"It has also addressed some of the historic inequities that have existed for people with rarer cancers, ensuring that access to treatment is not denied simply because you are unlucky enough to have a rare form of cancer.
"This is a compassionate, common sense announcement which will be warmly welcomed by many thousands of cancer patients."
So far more than 34,000 patients have benefited from the fund and the charity estimates that 16,500 extra patients will benefit each year as a result of the extension of the funding programme.
Mr Cameron said: "When I became Prime Minister three years ago many patients with rare cancers were being denied life saving treatments.
"That is why we created the Cancer Drugs Fund, it is why we are extending it, and it is why we are partnering with Cancer Research UK to conduct new research into the effectiveness of cancer drugs."
Dr Andrew Protheroe, consultant in medical oncology at The Churchill Hospital in Oxford, added: "The more treatment options that are available to me, the better job I feel I can do for my patients.
"There is nothing more frustrating than knowing there is an effective, licensed, evidence-based treatment available which I am not allowed to use."
Mr Cameron also announced Genomics England - a Government-owned organisation tasked with mapping the DNA of 100,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases - will begin a partnership with Cancer Research UK.