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The 'other' pancreatic cancer debate

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 15 August 2014

The other Westminster debate in September - and why you should be interested

Most of you will know about the important Parliamentary debate on Maggie Watt's e-petition, which will be held on 8th September between 4.30pm and 7.30pm in Westminster. (If not, you can read more here). 

However, there is another debate in Westminster of relevance to pancreatic and other cancers and it is worth flagging up what it is about and why it matters.

On Monday 1st September, Eric Ollerenshaw MP (pictured above), the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer, has secured an End of Day Adjournment Debate to discuss "Clinical technology appraisals by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)." De-coded from the sometimes obscure language used by Parliamentary clerks, this means he will be raising the whole issue of the way NICE approves new drugs and treatments, or not as the case may be.

The debate is timely, for a number of reasons:

Firstly, back in June, NICE ended a consultation on proposals to change the way it assesses drugs, called Value Based Assessment (VBA), and they are due to announce next steps very soon. We at Pancreatic Cancer UK submitted a response to the consultation and sounded alarm bells on a number of issues, not least the proposed removal of a specific End of Life criteria. You can read more about our concerns here. So Eric's debate will allow issues and concerns like this to be flagged up with the Minister.

Secondly, the debate comes on the back of some very recent decisions by NICE not to fund important new cancer drugs. Both Kadcyla for metastatic breast cancer and Abiraterone for routine use in prostate cancer are high-profile examples. So the whole issue of affordability and cost-benefit decisions is back in the news.

Thirdly, the drug Abraxane is currently under consideration by NICE for routine use for eligible metastatic pancreatic cancer patients. (Read more about Abraxane and our Two More Months campaign here). A NICE meeting was held on 12th August and we expect a decision, or at least more details as to what happens next, to be announced in a few weeks' time.

Lastly, all this is interwoven with how the cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) works and how long it will exist. Abraxane is currently on the CDF but this is not ideal as drugs can be de-listed from it, doctors still have to make applications on a patient's behalf and the whole fund is not currently secure beyond 2016. The Cancer Drugs Fund was created because the NICE process was rejecting so many cancer drugs.  So any new NICE system needs to take this into account - in fact the CDF was always seen as a sticking plaster, to be got rid of when NICE came up with a system that better  reflected the needs of cancer patients. If the new VBA system does not provide that better system (and as stated above we have concerns about that at the moment) we could be back to square one.

So, Eric's debate is both timely and important. Watch this space for an update after 1st September.