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  1. Cancer drugs fund extended

    Two additional cancer drugs are set to become available on the NHS through a government fund which bypasses normal approval processes, it was announced today.

    The drugs are to be included as part of an £80 million a year annual increase in the Cancer Drugs Fund.

    The announcement came amid conflicting reports attributed to government sources about its future policy on cancer treatments.

    The increased cash will be put into the Cancer Drugs Fund, which has paid for 55,000 treatments in the last four years.

    The fund, now worth £280 million a year, was intended to allow doctors and patients to circumvent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence procedures for drug approval.

    The two additional treatments are lenalidomide for myelodysplastic syndrome and enzalutamide for prostate cancer. Both have been approved by NHS England.

    But, according to the government announcement, some cancer treatments may now be excluded from the fund.

    The Department of Health said treatments paid for by the fund would be evaluated by expert clinicians, adding "drugs which are the least clinically effective will not be routinely available to new patients."

    It also announced new talks with the pharmaceutical industry aimed at driving down the cost of drugs.

    According to some reports, there will also be pressure on NICE, which today approved a new multiple sclerosis drug, for a rethink on the way it evaluates treatments. It is accused of rejecting two thirds of the cancer drugs it evaluates.

    Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "It’s vitally important that as many people as possible have access to these pioneering, life-enhancing drugs, and we need to continue to focus our efforts on increasing access to these innovative treatments, whilst ensuring that all patients continue to receive the effective drugs which are right for them.

    "By protecting the NHS budget, we have been able to create this fund which has given hope to many thousands of people, their families and friends, and has an essential role in helping us realise our ambition to be the best place in Europe to survive cancer."

  2. Consultant in fundraising row

    A consultant rheumatologist is to take to the oars to help patients living with one of the conditions he treats.

    Dr Andrew Keat has recruited the London Rowing Club to help him in his 150 mile venture.

    The five day trip down the River Thames will be raising money for the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society.

    Dr Keat has been a consultant rheumatologist at Northwick Park Hospital, London, for more than 30 years and is an expert on ankylosing spondylitis.

    A team of 31, including Dr Keat, will row 30 miles a day, starting on Sunday, from Lechlade, Oxfordshire, and finishing in Putney, London.

    So far they have raised nearly £3,000.

  3. Overseas search for NHS ideas

    English hospital regulators have launched a global search for improved ways of running hospitals.

    Monitor, which oversees foundation trusts, said it is looking at countries such as France, Germany, Canada and the USA.

    It says there could be "practical lessons" from these countries.

    According to Monitor, it is looking at how they set clinical standards and how they aim to achieve good quality care in services such as stroke, maternity and A&E.

    Amy Caldwell-Nichols, who is directing the project at Monitor said: “The challenges facing our NHS are well known and it is accepted that we must change and improve in order to survive.

    “We think there could be practical lessons that the NHS can learn from other countries.”

  4. Backing for MS drug

    People with multiple sclerosis are to have access to a new drug on the NHS, it was announced today.

    The drug, dimethyl fumarate, delays disability and reduces relapse rates - and works better than other drugs, according to regulators.

    It is also taken orally, rather than by injection.

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said the NHS now had a legal obligation to fund the treatment for patients.

    It said the manufacturer had agreed a discount on the cost of the drug.

    It said patients should not be given the drug if they have the highly active or rapidly evolving relapsing-remitting form of the disease.

    Professor Carole Longson, of NICE, said: “Evidence has shown that this drug is more effective in reducing relapse rates and just as effective in delaying disability progression compared with current similar treatments.

    “Another advantage of dimethyl fumarate is that it is an oral treatment. It will be more convenient for patients to take than other currently available treatments, which must all be injected. It will help more people with multiple sclerosis to live a normal life.”

    * Another new drug aimed at reversing the condition has shown promise in early trials on patients, it was announced last night.

    Details of the phase I studies aimed at establishing the safety of anti-LINGO-1, or BIIB033, were published in Neurology Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.

    It is hoped the drug will reverse the damage to the nerves that causes multiple sclerosis, the process of demyelination.

    The randomised study involved some 72 healthy people and 47 people with relapsing-remitting or progressive multiple sclerosis.

    Researchers said the study showed no evidence of side-effects from the drug.

    They now plan phase II studies aimed at testing the effectiveness of the drug.


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