There are around 40 cancer drugs that are not readily available in Northern Ireland that are available to patients elsewhere in the UK and patients must go through the current IFR (Individual Funding Requests) system, subject to approval by the HSCB (Health and Social Care Board).
SDLP health spokesman Fearghal McKinney stated that “Cancer patients in Northern Ireland have waited long enough for equal access to cancer drugs”.
In the past, the Department of Health (DH) has argued it would need a special cancer drugs fund, which isn’t affordable. However, Mr McKinney believes that a PPRS rebate system similar to that in Scotland, where PPRS payments go into a new medicines fund that covers treatments for rare and end-of-life conditions, should help bankroll the provisions.
The DH has in fact received £50m for investment in innovative medicines in the last two years. A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The Minister’s priority is to ensure that the new access criteria for specialist drugs will provide a transparent and sustainable system for patients over the long term” and that “it has regularly been made clear to Mr McKinney and the health committee that the sum required for new drugs each year far exceeds that returned to Northern Ireland through the PPRS scheme.”