Friday, 12 December 2014

Stephen Metcalfe MP delivers pancreatic cancer drug access petition to Downing Street

Stephen Metcalfe, Member of Parliament for South Basildon and East Thurrock, today delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street, alongside Pancreatic Cancer UK, and patients and families who have been affected by the disease.

The petition, with 2,165 signatures, calls on the Government and NHS decision-makers to recognise that pancreatic cancer has the worst survival outcomes of any of the 21 most common cancers; that there are very few treatment options available to patients; and to make sure the chemotherapy drug Abraxane is not removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund list when the CDF panel meets next Monday, 15th December.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was initially designed to give patients in England access to effective treatments deemed too expensive for hospitals to fund. But, due to the number of drugs that have been added since 2010, the fund will now introduce price restrictions for the first time. 42 drugs are being reassessed and may ultimately be removed. Worryingly, Abraxane is one of those drugs being reconsidered – and its future will be determined at a meeting of the CDF on 15th December 2014.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all of the 21 most common cancers in the UK with fewer than 4% of people diagnosed surviving five years or more. This figure has hardly changed in 40 years. It is predicted that by 2030 pancreatic cancer will overtake breast cancer as the 4th most common cancer killer.

Abraxane when combined with standard chemotherapy treatment has been shown in trials to extend eligible patients’ life by an average of just over two months, although in some cases significantly more. Accordingly, it has been hailed as the biggest advance in almost 20 years in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Yet it has not been approved by the NHS watchdog NICE, depriving many patients from its potential life-extending benefits. The final decision is expected in the New Year although disappointingly a preliminary ‘no’ has already been announced.

The only hope for patients wanting to access Abraxane is for the drug to remain on the Government’s Cancer Drugs Fund – something which Pancreatic Cancer UK fought for back in February this year with the launch of its “Two More Months” campaign

Speaking after handing in the petition Stephen said; “I was pleased to be able to offer my support for pancreatic cancer patients by joining with current patients and those who have lost family members to the disease to hand in this petition to 10 Downing Street.

“Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease that takes far too may lives and for which there are currently very few treatment options available. I urge the Cancer Drugs Fund Committee to heed what the petitioners are calling for and to keep Abraxane on the CDF list of approved drugs so that more patients can access life-extending treatment.”

Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, comments; “I would like to thank Stephen for his support today. As a charity which offers a specialist support service, we take many calls from distressed families following the loss of a loved one – and all too often they tell us that it all happened so quickly and that any amount of extra time, however small, would have made a huge difference.  This might be time that would have enabled them to complete a degree, walk down the aisle or to see another Christmas with their friends and family.”

“We hope that our petition will force key decision makers to fully consider the impact of removing Abraxane® from the Cancer Drugs Fund. Not in terms of statistics and cost efficiencies but in terms of time; something none of us can put a price on.”