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Patients should have access to cancer drugs - McLaughlin

19 June, 2014 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has said restrictions on access to cancer drugs should be removed immediately. 

Speaking after visiting the Centre for Cancer Research at Queen's University, Belfast, the chair of the Assembly's health committee said; 

"The current restrictions are completely unfair to cancer patients. 

"38 cancer drugs are available in England, Scotland and Wales which are not available here in the North. 

"Access to cancer drugs should not be by dint of postcode. 

"Under the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme, any money that is returned through rebates should be used to provide greater access to these drugs. 
"I raised this at the health committee and I am calling on the minister to clarify if money from the scheme is being used to make these drugs available to those who need them. 

"Using this money would mean the minister would not have to look at prescription charges to pay for making these drugs available as has previously been claimed. 

"The exceptionality clause where GPs have to make a case that a patient's cancer is biologically exceptional before they can get access to these drugs should also be removed. 

"It only applies to five per cent of cancer patients and many GPs do not apply for it. 

"I also visited the Centre for Cancer Research at Queen's University, where research leading to the development of many of these drugs is carried out, and spoke to staff about how important it is that cancer patients in the North have access to these drugs."

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