HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 28 April 2017

Media Summary

Brexit must protect science or risk £800m research cash, ministers told
The Times, Oliver Wright and Chris Smyth, 28 April 2017

Britain’s biggest research foundation called on politicians to deliver a Brexit that gives them the “confidence” to continue investing nearly £800 million a year in science. The Wellcome Trust has written to party leaders setting out the conditions necessary to “sustain” scientific excellence. The letter from Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome’s director, and Baroness Manningham-Buller, its chairwoman, said that whichever party was elected in June would “determine the direction that the UK will take through exit from the European Union and beyond”.

Cancer Drugs Fund ‘huge waste of money’
BBC News, Nick Triggle, 28 April 2017

UK researchers have called the Cancer Drugs Fund in England a “huge waste of money”, that may have caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side effects of the drugs. The fund ran from 2010 to 2016, costing £1.27bn, yet the researchers found only one in five of the treatments to be beneficial.

Brexit and health and social care – People & Process
The Health Committee, The House of Commons, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, 28 April 2017

The Health Committee has published its report entitled Brexit and health and social care – People & Process, to which the HDA submitted evidenceAlongside considering the preparations being made by the Department of Health (DoH) in advance of Brexit negotiations, the Health Committee is urging the DoH to produce a list of issues requiring contingency planning. Jeremy Hunt said that the DoH would continue to engage extensively with external stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry. It seems likely that the UK will require a new regulatory procedure for health-related products and substances of human origin. Jeremy Hunt maintained that the UK will leave the European Medicines Agency although continue to work closely with the body. The Committee also highlighted that the impact Brexit will have on those reliant upon the EU’s reciprocal healthcare arrangements should not be underestimated.

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Oral Answers, Friday 28 April 2017

Mr Barry Sheerman, MP:

May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for putting up with me so tolerantly for a long time? I warn you, however, that I will make every effort to come back and be troublesome in future. May I also surprise you by asking a topical question? People such as me were remainers. We accept the will of the British people, but we are darn sure that we want a great deal for this country and we are very worried that this election will get in the way. Has the Secretary of State seen this morning’s reports that the pharmaceutical industry is going to move out of Britain for two reasons? The first is Brexit and the second is the fact that we have not put sufficient resources into our national health service.

Mr Davis, MP:

Before I answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, may I say that he is the one person who has got me a rebuke from Mr Speaker in the past? I look forward to him coming back and continuing that tradition. Pharmaceutical industries have relocated here and companies such as GlaxoSmithKline have increased their expenditure here. As for the other aspect of that attempt by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, it seemed to me to be putting pressure on the spending of the national health service. That is an issue for the Health Secretary, who will make sensible decisions in the national interest, and not in that of an individual industry.

Full Coverage 

Cancer Drugs Fund ‘huge waste of money’
BBC News, Nick Triggle, 28 April 2017

The Cancer Drugs Fund in England was a “huge waste of money” and may have caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side effects of the drugs, according to UK researchers.

The fund ran from 2010 to 2016, costing £1.27bn, following an election promise made by the Conservatives to pay for cancer drugs the NHS was not funding.

The researchers found only one in five of the treatments was of benefit.

But the Tories said the fund gave patients “precious extra time”.

Nearly 100,000 patients received drugs under the scheme. It was run separately to the normal NHS process for assessing the effectiveness and affordability of new drugs, which is administered by a body called NICE.

Are NHS patients getting the best medicines?

The fund was promised by the Conservatives during the 2010 election campaign amid concern patients were not always getting access to the latest drugs.

Five things £1.27bn can pay for in the NHS (over five years)

  • 10,000 nurses
  • 2,500 hospital consultants
  • One of England’s 10 regional ambulance services
  • A one-off pay rise of 2.5% for every member of NHS staff
  • An extra 20 GP surgeries

Lead researcher Prof Richard Sullivan, from King’s College London, described it as “policy on the hoof” because of the way it was announced.

“Populism doesn’t work when you are dealing with complex areas of policy like this. When it was launched it was not monitored properly. It was politically and intellectually lazy.”

He said it was not only politicians who were guilty, but leading doctors and cancer charities for not speaking out against the fund or scrutinising it more.

And he said by the end the initiative had proved to be a “huge waste of money” and a “major policy error”, saying it was telling that in 2015 the committee that controlled the fund started delisting drugs and ended up striking off more than half the treatments from the list.

But the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, Baroness Delyth Morgan, said the fund had “had a totally transformational impact” on many living with incurable breast cancer.

She added it had offered patients “significant and precious extra time with their loved ones”, adding Perjeta could extend life by nearly 16 months, and Kadcyla by six to nine months, compared with existing treatments.

But Baroness Morgan did say the fund had only ever been “intended as a sticking plaster” while the “significant flaws” in the NICE appraisal process were fixed.

David Cameron announced the Cancer Drugs Fund policy during the 2010 election campaign
The fund was eventually brought under the remit of NICE last year and is now used to pay for treatments it believes there is a case to fund.

The study, which was published in the Annals of Oncology journal, looked at the 47 treatments that were being funded by January 2015, the point at which drugs started to be delisted because the cost of the fund was spiralling out of control.

They found only 18% met internationally recognised criteria for being deemed clinically beneficial.

This led them to conclude that a majority of patients may well have suffered because of side effects that the drugs can cause.

This can include anything from hair loss, upset stomachs and swelling in joints to an increased risk of stroke.
Of the drugs where there was some evidence of benefit, the average was an extra 3.2 months of survival.

Emlyn Samuel, of Cancer Research UK, agreed with the researchers that the fund “wasn’t fit for purpose”. He said the charity would be closely monitoring the impact of the new system administered by NICE.

HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 28 April 2017

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