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One in six cancer patients is being denied drugs recommended by doctors

Laura Donnelly
The survey also found that almost half of those who tried to enroll on clinical trials of new treatments were unable to do so - PA

One in six cancer patients is being denied drugs recommended by their doctors, a study  has found.

The Institute of Cancer Research said radical action was needed to cut drug costs and speed up access to life-extending medications.

Its survey of more than 1,000 cancer patients found 16 per cent had been denied a drug recommended by their consultant, or faced a delay receiving it.

Almost half of those who tried to enroll on clinical trials of new treatments were unable to do so.

The ICR said too many patients were being denied drugs, or forced to wait too long for them, because NHS rationing bodies did not prioritise new types of treatment.

Its research found that the average time from when a cancer drug is patented to approval by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence is now more than 14 years.

It urged health officials to rewrite the rules, in order to fast-track those with the greatest potential into the NHS.

It also calls for "radical action" to lower the cost of new drugs to the health service; for example, by introducing pricing based on how successful they are in treating patients.

The survey of 1,064 cancer patients found that 9 per cent of sufferers had been unable to access a treatment recommended by their doctors, while 12 per cent said they had experienced delays in receiving a suggested drug.

The publication of the manifesto follows an ICR report last year, which suggested NHS patients are waiting longer for new cancer drugs because of delays getting them through clinical trials and licensing.

Its research found that the average time from when a cancer drug is patented to approval by Nice has risen from 12.7 to 14.1 years, comparing the period 2000-2008 to 2009 to 2016.

ICR chief executive Professor Paul Workman said: "We will only make step-change advances against cancer by giving patients access to genuinely innovative new drugs, which can attack cancer in brand new ways, or as part of innovative combinations to overcome the challenge of drug resistance.

"We need drug regulators and Nice to be faster and more flexible in their assessment of evidence, especially for the most innovative treatments.

"And it's crucial also to address the extremely high prices of cancer drugs, which researchers and patients agree are the biggest barrier to getting them to patients."

Professor Raj Chopra, head of cancer therapeutics at the ICR, said: "It's only by encouraging innovation that we can make big leaps forward in treating those forms of cancer that have so far missed out on major progress.

"It's essential too that we ensure all cancer patients have access to suitable clinical trials - and that we greatly expand efforts to discover and develop new drugs for children with cancer, so that they can start to benefit from the same kinds of advances we have seen in adults."

Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at Nice , said: “Providing patients with access to innovative cancer treatments that are clinically and cost-effective is NICE’s highest priority. Since July 2016, we said yes for cancer drugs in 80 percent of the cases we have looked at – compared with 47 per cent  in 2012/13."