Wales will not have a Cancer Drugs Fund, despite a 98,000-signature petition calling for equity of access to cancer drugs for patients in England and Wales being handed to the Welsh Assembly on 5 November 2014.
Mark Drakeford, health minister for Wales, ruled out the fund during health minister’s questions at the meeting.
He told the meeting that the Welsh Government has “no intention” of introducing a scheme that he claimed was not ethical, lacked clinical support, was unpopular with the public and would deliver a “lesser service” for cancer patients in Wales.
Darren Millar, Conservative assembly member for Clwyd West, called the government’s stance an “obvious injustice” and said that patients in England were securing better clinical outcomes as a direct result of their access to a Cancer Drugs Fund.
But the minister rejected Millar’s accusation. “We have a system that is fair to all patients, that is clinically driven and that provides good outcomes at a cost effective price. That is the right way to do things,” he said. More than half of applications to Wales’s Individual Patient Funding Request (IPFR) process, which allows consideration of medicines not routinely available through the Welsh NHS, result in a drug being made available, he told the Assembly.
England’s fund, recently increased to a value of £280m a year until 2016, provides access to cancer drugs that have not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and are not available through NHS England. Drakeford also announced that, as a result of a review, the IPFR process is being strengthened to include access to orphan drugs for patients with rare diseases and the work of each regional IPFR panel is to be centrally coordinated to ensure consistency.
Like Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have no Cancer Drugs Fund: their devolved governments have their own systems for decision-making on patient access to non-approved drugs. However, arrangements in Northern Ireland are under review.