Sally Greenbrook, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Breast Cancer Now, explains how we’re helping patients access life-saving drugs – and why your support is so important.

Monday 17 October 2016      Policy and campaigns blog
Ask us anything - Access to drugs

Find out how we're campaigning to help women access new treatments for breast cancer

It’s vital we develop new treatments for secondary breast cancer, but if women can’t access these drugs, we’ve only done half our job. Sally Greenbrook, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Breast Cancer Now, explains how we’re standing up for patients – and why your support is so important.

Why aren’t some women with secondary breast cancer getting the treatments they need?

Sadly, it usually boils down to cost. Some of the most effective drugs being developed are simply too expensive for the NHS, so they can’t give them to patients who could benefit from them.

Who decides which drugs are made available on the NHS and how do they choose?

In England, and usually Wales and Northern Ireland too, it’s the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). In Scotland it’s the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). They assess how effective a drug is and decide whether the benefits to patients justify the cost.

If a drug isn’t made available on the NHS, does that mean no one can have it?

In England, it’s currently possible to get some treatments through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which pays for expensive drugs. But this isn’t the case for the rest of the UK – and the fund is a temporary solution. We’re campaigning to make sure women still get the drugs they need through whatever system replaces the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Why are drugs so expensive? Can’t we ask the pharmaceutical companies to reduce their prices?

It costs companies a huge amount to get drugs ready to give to patients, but we’re urging them to be more flexible on pricing – and thanks to you, we’re making progress. In September 2015, 42,000 of you signed our petition which led to drugs manufacturer Roche lowering the price of the life-extending drug, Kadcyla.

How is Breast Cancer Now helping to get drugs to patients?

We’re working with the Government, NICE, the SMC, the pharmaceutical industry and, of course, patients themselves. But to make our voice heard, we need your support.

(All information correct at time of publishing)

More information

To stay up-to-date on our work on this issue, you can read more about our campaign to unlock drugs here or sign up to receive our campaign emails.

About the author

Sally Greenbrook is Policy Manager at Breast Cancer Now. She has a background in health policy and enjoys getting lost in the detail of the policy world.