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Welsh NHS to fund new drug for pancreatic cancer

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 22 September 2014

Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer in Wales will have access to the drug Abraxane on the NHS, Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford today announced.

Wales is the only country in the UK where the chemotherapy drug will be routinely available to eligible patients on the NHS. The decision to fund Abraxane follows a positive recommendation from the independent All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) earlier this month. AWMSG appraises medicines for use in Wales, ensuring patients have access to those treatments which have a proven evidence base and are demonstrated to be cost and clinically-effective.

Professor Drakeford said: “Following the appraisal of Abraxane by AWMSG , I am pleased to announce we will be making the medicine available on the Welsh NHS to those who are eligible to receive it.

“I am proud that in Wales we have a system in place where patients get access to proven and effective treatments for cancer and other life-threatening conditions.”

Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, comments:

"We are delighted that the Minister has ratified the recommendation to make Abraxane routinely available as a first-line treatment to eligible patients on the NHS. This is an important step forward for pancreatic cancer patients in Wales, as there are currently very few treatment options available. The decision gives clinicians another weapon in their armoury to help fight the disease and, whilst patients will still need to meet certain medical eligibility criteria, such as being fit enough to tolerate the treatment regime, it means more patients will get access to life-extending drugs. The decision also means Wales is the first country in the UK to make Abraxane routinely available for pancreatic cancer patients on the NHS. We now want to see Scotland, Northern Ireland and England follow suit so that many more patients and their loved ones will also be able to benefit from this treatment."

Abraxane, when combined with standard chemotherapy treatment, has been shown in trials to extend a patient's life by an average of two months, although in some cases more.

Whilst Abraxane is currently available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England, it is not routinely available on the NHS, so doctors have to apply on behalf of their patients and the CDF is only funded up until 2016. NICE has recently issued a recommendation to reject Abraxane being made routinely available on the NHS on England, a decision being contested by Pancreatic Cancer UK.

In Scotland, the Scottish Medical Consortium (SMC) rejected Abraxane back in June. It is currently reconsidering the drug again following a re-submission by the drug manufacturer and a change of assessment process by the SMC.

To learn more about Pancreatic Cancer UK's 'Two More Months' campaign to make Abraxane routinely available for patients on the NHS across the whole of the UK.