Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Conservatives tackle poor Cancer survival rates

Cancer is very bad news, trust me on this, and the fact that about a quarter of us will get it in some form of another during our lives should be enough for everyone to take it seriously. That begs the question why Britain is near the bottom of the European league when it comes to cancer survival rates. Put simply, you are more likely to die, or die sooner of cancer in Britain than in any other European country. Given our large and successful pharmaceutical industry and the fact that we spend more on cancer research than just about any other European country it is hard to see why this is. One clue is the process by which drugs are licensed, or in some cases not licensed for cancer treatment. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, or cost effectiveness depending on your view, has a history of taking its time over allow a particular treatment and sometimes of just ruling out the use of a drug despite its wide acceptance elsewhere. This made the England just about the only place in the developed world where you couldn’t get Velcade for Myeloma, and that includes Scotland where a separate process licensed the treatment without any fuss. That particular situation resolved itself when the drug company did a financial deal with NICE, which gives you a clue on the diving consideration in their processes. Anyway, the Conservative Party at least is going to do something about this if it becomes the government, changing NICE’s processes so that drugs are considered more quickly, so that we don’t get a situation where a treatment that is routine on the continent is still on clinical trial in England. That is certainly good news, both for patients and for the research doctors who show so much commitment in trying to do the best by their patients. Meanwhile, Labour thinks the NHS is due another pointless reorganisation. Keeps the management consultants happy I suppose.

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