Britain said it would spend 200 million pounds (about R2.2 billion) annually for the next three years on a new cancer drugs fund, reassuring patient groups who had feared being short-changed.
Creating the fund was a Conservative Party manifesto pledge in the run-up to May's 2011 election, but a government spending review this month merely promised the fund would be worth "up to" 200 million pounds.
The new pot of money was designed to help patients get access to pricey cancer drugs not approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which assesses the cost-effectiveness of medicines used in state healthcare.
Health minister Andrew Lansley said the funding would be available for cancer drugs for three years from April 2011. An interim 50 million pounds had been assigned to the fund from 1 October 2010.
Panels of doctors will be in charge of deciding how the funding is spent for their patients locally.
Cancer patients get extra
Drugs cleared as cost effective by Nice will be funded on the state health service as before, but the extra funding means cancer patients also have a chance to get drugs their doctors think they need, even if they are not on the Nice list.
Cancer patients have long complained that Nice rules mean drugs widely available in other European countries are not available in Britain. Lansley said the new fund would help close the gap.
Cancer drugs rejected by Nice include Roche's top-selling Avastin and GlaxoSmithKline's Tyverb.
Lansley reiterated the government would move to a new system of paying for branded medicines for use on the National Health Service from 2014, confirming plans to adopt a "valued-based" pricing once the current five-year deal with companies expires at the end of 2013.
Details of how the new system will work have yet to be hammered out and drug companies are concerned it could lead to the sort of price controls seen elsewhere in Europe.
(Reuters Health, October 2010)
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