Following my previous blog post about Tuesday’s Westminster Hall Debate on the availability of cancer medicines, here’s an update on what happened.

A number of MPs from different political parties participated in the debate, sought by Jim Shannon, an MP committed to improving patient access to cancer drugs. This included two MPs I am scheduled to meet with on my next Westminster day in November, Mark Durkan and Nic Dakin, so it’s great to see they already have a good grasp of the issues we face.

Other MPs contributing to the debate included:

The debate focussed on the general inequity of access to cancer medicines which patients face, and the recent delisting of drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund (which included a number of drugs for CML). Jim Shannon highlighted the need to develop a long-term, sustainable solution to the issue of the evaluation and funding of cancer medicines, in order to benefit patients.

Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman MP, responded to the debate on behalf on the Government and cited the commitment NHS England has made to implementing the Cancer Taskforce recommendations, which is encouraging. His view was very much that if NICE has recommended a medicine then NHS England has a duty to fund it, which brings into question drugs which NICE has chosen not to even consider appraising due to small patient numbers – such as ponatinib for CML and ALL. He also mentioned the Government’s Accelerated Access Review (AAR), which was due to report this September, but has now been postponed until 2016. Time will tell if the recommendations of the AAR live up to the Minister’s promises but an accelerated scheme that has consistently been delayed doesn’t fill me with great confidence.

Many readers of this blog sent me messages when we announced this Westminster Hall debate, they had written to their MP telling them about it and asking them to attend. If you did this and the name of your MP isn’t on the attendee list above please write to them again and ask why they didn’t attend; urge them to look into the issues surrounding the delisting of drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund. I’d be happy to speak to them on your behalf or perhaps we can meet them together. It’s vitally important that as a small community we have a voice and are listened to.

Thanks, Kris

28/10/15 – ADDITION – you can watch a recording of the debate on Parliament Live TV here: