The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has announced that it has agreed to change the availability of cancer drugs to match that of England. From later this financial year, patients in Northern Ireland will have access to medicines approved for the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England. This is significant, as it is usually not the case that CDF decisions affect any of the Devolved Nations’ health services. Based on previous years of CDF activity, it is estimated that this decision will cost between £2 million and £2.5 million per year. Cancer patients in Northern Ireland will be hopeful the policy comes into effect as soon as possible.
The DH announcement also incorporates changes to individual funding requests (IFRs). From implementation:
“decisions on IFRs will be taken by a clinically led Regional Scrutiny Committee. This will fulfil a Ministerial Commitment to place clinical expertise at the heart of this sensitive and important decision making process”
Describing the changes, Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of Department of Health, said
“New drugs for cancer and other life threatening and debilitating illnesses come on to the market every year. These are often very expensive in terms of both cost of the drugs and the infrastructure (e.g. staff, and hospital, pharmacy and laboratory capacity) needed to deliver them. This presents an enormous challenge to the health service and we need to ensure that funding is focused on drugs which demonstrate that they are clinically effective and represent value for money.
However, this must also be balanced against the need to ensure that patients here also have timely access to the most promising new treatments. I am aware that patients and clinicians here have been frustrated by the difference in access arrangements and I am pleased that we are now in a position to bring forward these changes which will increase access to new medicines for patients in Northern Ireland.”