NHS England has today (Friday, 4th September) announced that the life-extending drug Abraxane will no longer be available to people with advanced pancreatic cancer in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) from 4th November 2015.
Pancreatic Cancer UK says the move is an outrage, as it will leave hundreds of patients a year in England with no way of accessing the drug for free. The charity is calling for the decision to be reversed, so that eligible patients with pancreatic cancer in England have the same chance of accessing the drug as those in Wales and Scotland, where the drug is approved for routine use on the NHS.
When used in combination with standard chemotherapy, Abraxane can allow eligible patients with advanced pancreatic cancer to live an extra two months on average, and sometimes much longer. Abraxane is one of very few new treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer in 20 years which can allow patients to live longer, and it was the only pancreatic cancer drug on the CDF list of approved drugs.
Abraxane was first placed on the CDF in March 2014 and since then, over 500 people with advanced pancreatic cancer have received the drug through the CDF. The drug’s place on the CDF was reviewed, along with all the other cancer drugs on the approved list, at a meeting in July.
Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all the common cancers, with just four per cent of people living for five years after diagnosis. One person dies of the disease every hour.
Alex Ford, Chief Executive at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “Along with many thousands of our supporters, we are absolutely dismayed that Abraxane is to be taken off the Cancer Drugs Fund list. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure our worst fears about the future of the drug are not realised. Unless this breakthrough life-extending drug is kept on the CDF, people with advanced pancreatic cancer in England will have no way of accessing the drug on the NHS. Our supporters can join our campaign by calling on their MP to raise this with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as soon as possible.
“Abraxane is the only new treatment to be developed specifically for this deadly disease in 20 years, and was the only pancreatic cancer drug on the CDF list. The drug can help some patients live for a precious extra two months, and sometimes much longer. For many patients, the drug can mean the chance to spend twice as long with their loved ones. We urge Jeremy Hunt to intervene, so that hundreds of advanced pancreatic cancer patients in England each year have the chance to live for as long as possible.”
Patients in England who are currently accessing Abraxane through the CDF will still be able to receive the drug for free. New eligiable patients will be able to access the drug via the CDF until 4th November at which point it will be removed from the CDF list.
People with advanced disease in Northern Ireland have no way of routinely accessing Abraxane on the NHS.
Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Two More Months campaign helped to ensure that Abraxane was originally added to the CDF, and helped get its approval for use on the NHS in Wales (September 2014) and Scotland (February 2015). The charity has campaigned for over a year for Abraxane to stay available to eligible patients in England with advanced pancreatic cancer through the CDF.
For further information on pancreatic cancer and Abraxane visit www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/abraxane