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ICR calls for faster access to innovative cancer drugs

Published on 25/04/19 at 10:29am

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has called for faster access to innovative cancer drugs in the UK.

The call comes as an ICR survey found that as many as 16% of patients had either been denied a drug recommended by their doctors or experienced delays in receiving a recommended treatment.

Meanwhile, nearly half of those surveyed who had tried to enrol in clinical trials had been unable to do so.

The ICR have thus called on government and the pharmaceutical industry to increase speed of access to cancer drugs in the UK.

In their Cancer Drug Manifesto the ICR called on Britain’s cost-effectiveness body NICE to prioritise innovative cancer treatments that attack cancer in new ways, over cancer treatments that simply improve on older treatments.

Meanwhile the ICR called for ‘radical action’ in bringing down the cost of modern cancer drugs. This may involve the introduction of outcomes-based pricing which would tie prices to benefits that treatments deliver.

Another option may involve allowing the first drug in a new class of drugs coming to market to cap the price for that group of drugs. All drugs in that group would thus have to be priced lower than the original. This would bring down prices over time while also incentivising innovation.

“Drugs are commonly priced at the limit of what the market can bear rather than reflecting the true costs of development or the level ofbenefit they deliver. This is both unsustainable for healthcare providers and a bad use of taxpayers’ money,” the ICR report says.

The report also suggests “smaller, smarter clinical trials to generate findings more quickly and cheaply.” Intelligent trial design and the utilisation of predictive tests could speed up access to drugs the report notes. Meanwhile the report calls on drug regulators to be more flexible in assessing evidence.    

In turn, pharmaceutical companies should be incentivised to trial new medicines in novel combinations, even if that means collaborating with rivals. In doing this, tax credits and new pricing mechanism could be used to incentivise collaboration and innovation.

However, collaborations must also include universities and charities. Tax incentives could encourage cross sector collaboration when it comes to developing new, innovative cancer drugs.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR said: “Our manifesto calls for action to supercharge the passage of the most innovative cancer drugs through clinical trials, licensing and NICE appraisal, and into the NHS. We need drug regulators and NICE to be faster and more flexible in their assessment of evidence, especially for the most innovative treatments. And it’s crucial also to address the extremely high prices of cancer drugs, which researchers and patients agree are the biggest barrier to getting them to patients.”

Louis Goss

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