The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is responsible for the appraisal of cancer drugs in England.

In Wales, the All Wales Medicine Strategy Group (AWSMG) appraise new medicines. However, once NICE has made a decision about whether or not to make a drug available on NHS England, it usually is the case that the AWSMG guidance will be superseded by the NICE guidance.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has once month to decide whether or not to follow NICE guidance for HSCNI - this is usually the case.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) makes independent decisions about drug availability in Scotland.

NICE and the Cancer Drugs Fund in England

New cancer drugs take years of investment to develop and are, as a result, often very expensive. The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was set up in England in 2010 to cover the cost of expensive new cancer drugs, including those that NICE rejected due to their high price. As a result of rising demand for drugs and prices remaining high, the CDF has become unaffordable for the NHS.

Under the current system, NICE can reject a drug for being too expensive, but the pharmaceutical companies can still charge full-price for the treatment and have it made available to men in England through the CDF - another pot of the same money. It's no secret that this system is flawed, and no wonder that it's unsustainable.

We, and other cancer charities, have long been calling for much needed change. Together with Breast Cancer Now, we co-founded the CDF Cancer Charity Coalition, and voted three representatives onto NHS England’s CDF Working Party. This group was tasked with leading the reforms to the CDF and NICE appraisal process for cancer drugs.

In November 2015, NHS England and NICE released a document outlining how they propose to reform access to cancer drugs in England, which includes major changes to the way that the CDF is used.

We’ve joined forces with Tackle to submit a joint response to NHS England and NICE to try and address these issues. A key part of this involved asking you for your views and we used these to inform our submission, which you can read here. Now that we have submitted our response, we will be keeping a watchful eye to see what changes – if any – are made to the proposals.

SMC and Access to New Medicines Review in Scotland

In 2012-13, we called for the reform of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) and a review of how patients gained access to new treatments on NHS Scotland.

As a result of our, and other patient groups', concerns, the Scottish Parliament's Health & Sport Committee launched a review into the access of new medicines. They published a report in July 2013 with their recommendations.

Working in partnership with other charities, we have been successful in opening the SMC to public scrutiny, developing a mechanism for the patient voice to be better heard as part of the decision making process, as well as reforming Individual Patient Treatment Requests (IPTRs) to increase the number of patients who could access the drugs they needed.

The Health & Sport Committee is currently evaluating how their recommended reforms have been implemented and the difference that these have made. We contributed our feedback through our membership on the Scottish Cancer Coalition

A second review of access to new medicines has recently been announced by the Scottish Government, to look at ways we might better the system still. We will be feeding in both via the Scottish Cancer Coalition and individually. We'll let you know how you can feed in to our response, once we know the full scope of the review. Watch this space.

Wales: Looking ahead

In Wales, we want to work with partner charities through the Wales Cancer Alliance to speak to the Welsh Government about how drugs are appraised.

The National Assembly's Health & Social Care Committee published their Legacy Report in March 2016 - this report highlights the work of the committee over the past five years, as well as looking ahead to the Fifth Assembly and what inquiries the next Committee may choose to consider.

These inquiries potentially include access to treatment and the Individual Patient Funding Request (IFPR) process, the integration of health and social care services, and health service reconfiguration.

We will be working with the next Welsh government and key health officials to make sure that the NHS in Wales allows the best possible treatment and support for men with prostate cancer.

Read all news