More cancer drugs to be made available in NI

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Patients in Northern Ireland will have the same access to cancer drugs as those in other parts of the UK, the Department of Health has announced.

Changes were announced to a mechanism known as the Individual Funding Request (IFR) process, a route to accessing medicines outside a commissioning policy.

Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary of department of health, said: “New drugs for cancer and other life threatening and debilitating illnesses come on to the market every year. Unfortunately, our approach did not properly take account of changes to the NICE approval process, and patients here had difficulty accessing such drugs.”

He continued: “This has been a major cause of frustration for both patients and clinicians.

“It is clearly in the public interest that we moved to address this, and I am delighted that Northern Ireland patients will now have the same access to cancer drugs as their counterparts in other UK regions.”

A spokesperson for the department announced the changes.

“The changes to the IFR process follow an extensive evaluation and public consultation exercise, and fulfil a Ministerial Commitment to place clinical expertise at the heart of this sensitive and important decision making process,” the spokesperson said.

“The new approach will increase access to promising new treatments, improve the overall consistency of the IFR process, include a greater level of clinical input, and increase emphasis on the clinical benefit to the patient.”

The spokesperson continued: “The changes in access arrangements for innovative new medicines update the approach in Northern Ireland to better reflect amendments to NICE mechanisms. As a consequence of this, drugs approved by NICE for use through the Cancer Drug Fund in England will now be considered in line with existing arrangements for NI endorsement of NICE recommendations. Accordingly, patients here will have the same access to cancer drugs as their counterparts in other UK regions.”

The changes are expected to be introduced within this financial year.