Improvements For Cancer Patients Accessing Treatment Drugs Called For By Parliament Committee

18/06/2008

Clarity on the funding of non-NHS cancer treatment drugs has been called for by the Public Petitions Committee today.

The report into the availability on the NHS of cancer treatment drugs follows the committee’s inquiry inspired by the petition brought to it by Tina McGeever and her late husband Michael Gray.

The committee has raised serious concerns about procedures within NHS boards to assess whether a cancer patient can be ‘exceptionally prescribed’ a non-NHS drug. A lack of clarity and transparency, with information not being made available to patients at the crucial time of diagnosis, was also revealed in evidence sessions. The procedure was perceived as not working in the best interests of the patient.

The committee recommends that data should be gathered across all NHS boards on how such ‘exceptional prescribing’ processes work and how guidance issued by the drug appraisal bodies is being implemented. A further recommendation has been made to carry out research into the methodologies used to measure and evaluate the health benefits of a particular drug, known as the quality-adjusted life year (QALY) process.

Committee Convener Frank McAveety MSP said:

“This has been a vitally important inquiry and we are honoured to have taken it forward. There were clear emotional issues surrounding it, not least the sad death during the inquiry of the petitioner Michael Gray. We want action from the Scottish Government to ensure that no-one else has to experience what Michael Gray and Tina McGeever did in trying to access cancer treatment drugs.

“There is confusion amongst NHS boards and health professionals over the Government’s guidance to them on the co-public/private funding of a non-NHS cancer treatment drug. When health professionals describe being placed in an ‘uncomfortable position’ or ‘a moral, ethical and logistical nightmare and minefield,’ then clearly the guidance is not doing what it should.

”We are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure cancer patients have the best chance of survival our healthcare system can offer.”

Background

Petition PE1108 was lodged on 7 January 2008. It calls on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to consider the provision, on the NHS, of cancer treatment drugs, in particular Cetuximab, to ensure equity across NHS boards on the appropriateness, effectiveness and availability of such treatments.

The petition was considered by the Committee on 15 January 2008 and 19 February 2008. At its meeting on 4 March 2008 it agreed its approach to this inquiry and the following remit—

‘An inquiry into the provision, on the NHS, of cancer treatment drugs and whether there is equity across NHS boards of the appropriateness, effectiveness and availability of such drugs and whether there is parity between the cancer drug treatment regime and other life threatening or other terminal conditions.’ .

Further details are available via the Committee’s inquiry homepage.

The report itself can be accessed via the Committee’s homepage. Please note that Annexes A, B and C are available in e-format only.

The Committee has invited a response from the Scottish Government with a timetable for action by 1 September 2008.

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