Equal access to cancer drugs call

Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI with cancer patients Allister Murphy and Gary Vint (R)
Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI with cancer patients Allister Murphy and Gary Vint (R)

Local people are being asked to attend a public meeting about equal access to cancer drugs in Lisburn organised.

Cancer Focus NI, which is campaigning to bring about change, is calling the Health Minister to provide clarification around a review promised to look at the availability of cancer drugs in Northern Ireland. They are asking people to attend the meeting to voice their opinions on how to improve access to specialist drugs.

At the moment some drugs are not readily available to cancer patients here but are freely available to patients living in England.

The meeting is organised by the DHSSPS and will be held at The Chestnut Suite, Lagan Valley Island Civic centre, on April 13 from 7pm to 8.30pm.

An evaluation of the existing system – the Individual Funding Request (IFR) - was commissioned by Health Minister Jim Wells last year and five recommendations have now been made outlining ways to improve access to drugs that are not routinely available.

Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive, said: “We see these new recommendations as a great step towards securing equal access for patients.

“Cancer Focus NI regrets that the issue of equal access to cancer drugs and the re-introduction of prescription charges have become linked. We believe there are a number of other ways to fund a Specialist Medicines Fund which could give immediate access.

“These include using the rebate from the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) to give access to new drugs, which it was originally set up to do. £30m from the PPRS is expected to be returned to DHSSPS this year alone, while only £6m - 8m is needed to give Equal Access to cancer drugs here.

“This campaign is at a critical stage. We urge the public to back us.”