Charity wants progress on cancer drug reforms

Web mammogram breast cancer screening

Breast Cancer Now has made a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government

29th September 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A cancer charity is calling for faster progress on drug reforms in Scotland.

A Breast Cancer Now report sets out action needed by October of next year to accelerate progress to tackle breast cancer in Scotland.

The charity is calling for the Scottish Government to urgently speed up progress implementing promised reforms to improve patient access to medicines on the NHS in Scotland.

Amid unprecedented financial pressures for the NHS, the charity's landmark Good Enough? Breast cancer in the UK report assesses the available UK data to investigate the current state of play for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer on the NHS in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The report outlines 18 key recommendations for action by UK health bodies, to improve the management of breast cancer on the NHS

Clear priorities for change in Scotland over the next year, include: progress to be made by the Scottish Government on implementing announced reforms to improve access to medicines; new additional cancer waiting time targets and guidelines to help unlock access for patients in the north of Scotland to cheap off-patent drugs called bisphosphonates.

Research shows the drugs could prevent one in 10 breast cancer deaths and reduce the spread of the disease to the bone within 10 years by 28%.

The report also reveals that chances of survival from breast cancer have improved significantly in Scotland over the last 20 years with more than eight in ten (82.8%) women diagnosed between 2007 and 2011 surviving for five years.

However, figures also show that the number of women diagnosed with the disease is on the rise - having increased by over 14% since 2006.

"Breast cancer isn't a done deal," said Lawrence Cowan, policy and campaigns manager for Breast Cancer Now in Scotland.

“More women are surviving the disease, but more are being diagnosed than ever before. Almost 1,000 people still lose their lives to the disease every year and we need to keep up the pace of progress.

"The Scottish Government has made ambitious commitments to ensuring that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and to improving patient access to new medicines. But we need to keep up that momentum with action.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said the government had significantly improved access to new medicines in recent years, and called on pharmaceutical companies to ensure drugs are sold at a fair price.

She said: "We are continuing to build on these improvements by taking forward the recommendations set out in Dr Brian Montgomery’s review on access to new medicines as quickly as possible in collaboration with stakeholders, including the Scottish Medicine Consortium, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and National Services Scotland.

"We have also written to the North of Scotland Cancer Network to seek that they replicate the guidance on accessing bisphosphonates implemented by the West of Scotland Cancer Network and the South East Scotland Cancer Network.”

Things need to change and they need to change quickly

Simon Skinner, from Bridge of Weir, is featured in the report and supports Breast Cancer Now's call for tangible progress from the Scottish Government on implementing recommendations from the access to medicines review.

He lost his wife Sue, aged 55, in October 2014 after a battle with secondary breast cancer. While living in Ireland, Sue received Perjeta as part of her cancer treatment.

"It's great that promises have been made to reform Scotland's medicine system. Things need to change and they need to change quickly. That's why we need to see action and results as soon as possible so that women have the best chance to access drugs like Perjeta in the future.

"There's no cure for secondary breast cancer but there is a growing number of drugs that can delay the spread with few side effects and buy patients time with their loved ones. In Sue's case that precious time was 18 months. During that time we lived and loved as any normal couple. We enjoyed and cherished every moment that we had together.

"Unfortunately my wife won't be the last to suffer the agonising pain of realising that one day tomorrow might never come. I owe it to Sue, and to the women and their families who are being denied these life extending drugs across the UK, to make sure that this issue is heard. Everyone needs to work together and sort this out."