Health insurer WPA has launched mycancerdrugs - a new form of insurance giving access to life-saving cancer drugs denied by the NHS.
Many cancer drugs are licensed for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) but are not available to patients on the NHS in England and Wales. Scotland has more available, but there are still several drugs, including Avastin for bowel cancer and Sutent for kidney cancer, which are also denied to Scottish patients.
Many NHS cancer patients have been denied these costly, though potentially life saving treatments, such as Avastin and Tarceva as they await National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) approval, and/or local health authority funding. Herceptin has only recently been approved.
The product provides up to £50,000 lifetime benefit for advanced cancer drugs as long as they are approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) and the NHS declines to administer them.
The yearly premium is equivalent to the policyholder’s age plus 5% insurance premium tax. Smokers pay double the premium and the maximum age of cover is 64. People are not eligible for cover if they have had or currently have cancer; are on a medically supervised health screening or review programme because they are considered to be at a higher risk of developing cancer; or have a parent or sibling who developed or died from cancer before the age of 60.
There is also a 90-day deferment period to prevent people joining the scheme who already know they have cancer.
Julian Stainton, Chief Executive of WPA, highlights why WPA is thinking innovatively about cancer funding. “Cancer is no longer an inevitable death-sentence. Recent and dramatic advances in medical technology make treatments ever more effective. mycancerdrugs helps fund the cost of such advanced drugs where the NHS denies their use. It is now time for this sort of top-up insurance to be available to the public. There is an age limit of 65, but we are feeling our way and we hope to extend this in the future. We will definitely consider extending the product to other forms of illnesses in the future so that we can broaden the range of top-up cover for people as a whole.”
The NHS in England and Wales restricts the use of many new cancer drugs, even though they are shown to be effective, either because they await approval by NICE or they are deemed to be not cost effective. This is despite the fact that several of the new drugs are freely available for NHS patients in Scotland.
The mycancerdrugs policy, set up by WPA, would cost just over £50 a year for a 50-year-old, or £100 for a smoker.