Report highlights progress on cancer drugs but more can be done

The recent report by NHS Cancer Director Professor Mike Richards on the uptake in the NHS of new cancer drugs makes clear that many more people are getting access to effective cancer drugs evaluated by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

This is good news, but the report also makes clear that the NHS can do more. Amongst other factors, it emphasises the importance of local leadership in the NHS to make sure that doctors and nurses have access to effective treatments and are encouraged to use them. NICE chief executive, Andrew Dillon said: “We welcome Professor Richard’s report, which is consistent with our own surveys and analysis. We support his proposals for supporting the NHS to do better and look forward to working with him. We will shortly be appointing an executive director at NICE with responsibility for helping the NHS to apply our guidance.”

In October 2003, the Secretary of State for Health commissioned the National Cancer Director to produce a report on variations in usage of cancer drugs approved by NICE. The report, published today, concluded that:

  • Overall usage of cancer drugs generally increases following positive appraisals from NICE.
  • Variation in usage does exist across the country and cannot be accounted for by differences in casemix and, for most drugs, is unlikely to be accounted for by cross boundary flows alone. However, variation does appear to lessen over time once a positive appraisal from NICE has been published.
  • Reasons for variation are complex but do not appear to be associated with direct funding restrictions on the use of these drugs. Instead the main impact on usage seems to be constraints in service capacity and differences in clinical practice.

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