Politicians argue over cancer treatment and health insurance

The Conservatives pledge to offer NHS cancer patients expensive life extending drugs that are currently denied to them. They argue that drugs that are licensed and prescribed by the health consultant of the patient should be made available to the cancer patient, irrespective of the NHS rationing.

This move will make it possible for thousands of breast, colon, kidney and lung cancer patients to extend their lives by six months to two years. The treatment is available in a number of other European countries, but is denied under the NHS to cancer patients in the UK. These drugs have been considered too costly to provide under the NHS rationing system.

David Cameron says, “Patients in this country should be among the first in the world to use effective cancer treatments, but are being denied access to drugs widely available in Europe. Other European countries are better than us at giving people longer, happier lives with cancer and we want to get more drugs to people more quickly.”

One proviso that the NHS has made in recent times has been to offer drugs to cancer patients only if it will prolong the life of the patient by at least nine months. This has led to arbitrary decisions being taken if a patient is allowed to get the life extending drugs.

Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary says, “We reject the notion that the public should have to take out private medical insurance to get access to the best cancer drugs. Our view is that paying tax should be the equivalent of having comprehensive health insurance. We should not have these arbitrary exclusions on cost grounds.”

Since November 2008, NICE has considered 14 new treatments for cancer and approved nine of them for use by NHS patients. In some cases, the drugs under consideration were to treat the same type of cancer. A drug for advanced kidney cancer, Sutent, was recommended as the first treatment for patients in March 2009 after a vigorous campaign by doctors and patients. But three other drugs for the same type of cancer have had their application to be used as a first line treatment turned down by NICE.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham says his party will focus on speedier treatment, "We are doing more to make new drugs more quickly available but obviously they all have to be checked for their effectiveness and value for money .The real front we need to fight now is early diagnosis."

Some PMI policies cover cancer treatment with drugs not approved for NHS use.


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Politicians argue over cancer treatment and health insurance
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