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Cancer drug use – comparing the UK to our European Counterparts

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has recently published research showing that fewer patients in the UK are receiving new, innovative medicines than the average in a range of comparable developed countries, including Spain, France, Germany and the US. The study looked at the use of new drugs in a range of different disease areas, including cancer.

The comparison is intended to enable the UK to improve and to deliver a world class NHS. Overall, the UK ranked 8th out of the 14 countries compared, but usage patterns of drugs varied by disease area. It is important to note that the optimum level of drug use will vary by disease area, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, because different factors affect each area.

For cancer treatment, the UK results are potentially worrying. The report found that the UK is below the average usage per head for cancer medicines that are less than five years old, is below the average for medicines between six and ten years old yet is above the average for cancer medicines ten years old or more. The UK is still far behind our European comparators in terms of drug use and overall survival rates.  Whilst there has been an improvement relative to our European comparators, there is still some way to go.

Particularly worrying is that the UK has below average drug use for the latest cancer treatments, which appears to suggest that the impact of the Cancer Drugs Fund may not be sufficient to enable the UK to catch up with our European comparators. It has been suggested that the current system is broken if UK patients cannot access clinically effective drugs which are available in other European countries and have been proven to offer them an improved outcome.

Monica Izmajlowicz, Leukaemia CARE Chief Executive, said: “We are concerned by the fact that the UK continues to lag behind most Europe in terms of the usage of innovative cancer treatments and cancer survival rates. It is clear that the current system is failing our patients and something needs to be radically changed to improve patient access to effective drugs and patient outcomes.”

To view a copy of the report, please click here.