A recent report reveals the drastic rise in cancer drug usage and reduction in "postcode prescribing" in England.
Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director, will be announcing the numbers that reveal huge differences in prescribing over a short time, i.e., from 2003 second half to 2005 first half.
Charities and drug companies condemned that cancer drugs were not being extensively used in spite of getting approval from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). This curtailed Professor Richards's investigation.
According to Professor Richards' report in June 2004, various regional cancer networks showed notable difference in the uptake of drugs. Professor made suggestions to decrease these differences and to ensure wide supply of good drugs.
According to him, the subsequent study has shown significant improvement. There is a drastic rise in the cancer drug usage in the 18 months gap between the two surveys. Two-fold increase in usage of some drugs, like rituximab (MabThera), for lymphoma, and temozolomide (Temodal), for the brain cancer glioma, were seen usage in that period. The use of trastuzumab (Herceptin), for breast cancer, went up by 55 %, and imatinib (Glivec), for chronic myeloid leukaemia, by 70 %.
"For every single cancer drug, we are seeing a reduction in the variation," Professor Richards said. "We haven't eliminated all variation but we are moving in the right direction and the recommendations of the first report are beginning to pay off."
Some of the differences are due to individual clinicians' judgments, some to the patient mix in an area, or the sending of particular types of patient to a different area for treatment.
"But taking all that into account, this is good news," he said. "We are moving in the right direction."
Rosie Winterton, the Health Minister, welcomed the report. "It is fundamental that all cancer patients should have the same access to cancer drugs that have been approved by NICE, no matter where they live," she said.
"I am delighted that the cancer director's report shows that considerable progress has been made. "However, that does not mean we will be complacent - we recognise that there is still more to do. As more people are diagnosed with cancer each year, the NHS must keep improving cancer services so each and every patient receives the best treatment possible."