UK lagging in cancer drugs use

GPs should work more closely with cancer networks to boost early diagnosis and treatment rates, the RCGP has warned.

The warning came after a global survey found the UK lags behind the rest of the world for use of new cancer drugs and cancer survival rates.

The UK was found to have worse five-year survival rates than those in France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Survival rates for UK women are further behind other countries than rates for men.

For UK women, five-year survival for all cancers apart from melanoma was 53 per cent, and the equivalent value for men was 43 per cent, compared to 71 per cent and 53 per cent respectively in France, where survival rates were highest.

The report showed 40 per cent of patients in the UK had access to drugs launched after 1985, compared with between 51 and 52 per cent of patients in the other four countries. The difference in uptake of these drugs accounted for 14 to 19 per cent of the international distribution in survival rates, according to the report.

RCGP chairman Professor Mayur Lakhani said: ‘I’m concerned by the report findings. There was a difference but I didn’t realise it was this stark.

 ‘GP commissioners should be trying to commission better cancer services, working with the cancer networks.’

This could boost early diagnosis, improve treatment plans and lead to more aggressive treatment, he said.

Also, a second survey of 25 countries showed ‘low and slow’ implementation of cancer treatments in the UK, New Zealand, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Austria, France, Switzerland and the US were found to be quickest to give patients cancer drugs on the market since 1995.

NICE was criticised for hindering access to novel cancer drugs in the report by experts from the Swedish Karolinska Institute and Stockholm School of Economics.

NICE was struggling to cope with ‘the growing workload of evaluations’.

‘This leads to delay for cancer patients in the UK getting access to drug therapies and is demonstrated in the comparison of the UK with other countries in this report,’ said the researchers.

But NICE chairman Professor Sir Michael Rawlins said British doctors were slow to start using new treatments.

‘It’s not a question of money or NICE being too slow,’ he said.

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