UK trailing Europe on access to cancer drugs – report

The UK is trailing Europe on cancer spend, survival rates and patient access to new oncology medicines, according to a new report.

According to the Swedish Institute for Health Economics report, more people than ever across Europe are surviving cancer.

Despite this, the pharma-funded report reveals the UK is spending less money on cancer care, five-year survival rates are below average, and the country has some of the lowest uptake of new cancer drugs compared with the largest EU economies.

In 2014 the average EU proportion of GDP spent on overall healthcare expenditure was 10.1%, and in the UK is 9.1%. Despite the increasing number of people being diagnosed, cancer expenditure as a proportion of overall healthcare expenditure across Europe has remained broadly stable at around 6% between 2002 and 2012. In the UK, this level of investment is below average, remaining unchanged at around 5%.

In the UK, survival rates at just under 50% were below the European five year relative survival rate average of 54% in 2000-07, up from 47% in 1990-94.

Access to medicines varies across Europe and the newest drugs, launched within the last three years, make up only 8% of total average cancer drug sales across Europe.

The UK still has some of the lowest uptake of new cancer medicines compared with the five largest EU economies, although there were some exceptions, according to the report.

Sales of cancer drugs across Europe have soared in recent years – from 8 billion euros in 2005 to 19.8 billion euros in 2014. Roche’s breast cancer drug, Herceptin (trastuzumab) is the top-selling oncology medicine.

Despite this doubling in cancer drug spend over the last ten years, the report found this has largely been offset by savings in moving care provision from hospital to outpatient and community-based settings.

The pharma industry has been campaigning for years for better use of new cancer drugs in the UK, and more use of innovative medicines. Life sciences minister George Freeman has been conducting an Accelerated Access Review to propose ways to improve access to new drugs, but this has been delayed until after the results of the EU referendum.

Paul Catchpole, director of value and access at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said: “The report highlights that the UK spends less on healthcare overall, less on cancer care and generally has lower access to new cancer medicines. We need to reflect on this given the stated ambition of government and the NHS to further improve UK cancer outcomes.”

The report was funded by an unrestricted grant from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, MSD, Novartis and Roche, coordinated by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.

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