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England “really is not a good place” to get cancer, BMS UK General Manager says

Published on 24/04/17 at 09:48am

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s UK General Manager Ben Hickey has slammed NICE over its assessment criteria and process in recommending access to life-saving treatments on the NHS, claiming the UK is falling behind its neighbours in Europe.

Survival rates for cancer patients in Britain stand at around 10 years behind leaders in Europe, and this could be attributable to the fact that the country injects less funding into cancer treatment per patients than Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Scotland and the US, according to a report from IMS.

“Unfortunately it really is not a good place to be diagnosed with what is a devastating illness,” Hickey noted. “We have seen that from the adoption of innovative therapies, we have seen it in survival rates 10% lower than a group of our European neighbours, we have seen it in the five-year survival in lung cancer being almost half what it is in Austria. We are still using an archaic model which is based on chemotherapy to evaluate innovative medicines such as immunotherapy. The flexibility doesn’t exist.”

Hickey also noted that new rules introduced by NICE this month are unlikely to help in rectifying the problem – the institute now has the ability to delay a drug’s introduction to the market by up to three years.

BMS has struggled in recent times with securing NHS approval for its immunotherapy treatment Opdivo (nivolumab). Earlier this month, NICE knocked back the drug in the indication of head and neck cancer.

Despite this criticism however, the NHS has claimed that survival rates in cancer are at their highest-ever point, while NICE’s Chief Executive Andrew Dillion dismissed criticism of its decision-making process, placing the onus instead on drug companies who he claimed must strive to set their prices responsibly.

Matt Fellows

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