We outline five essential things you need to know about the Scottish Government's plan to improve access to medicines.

Wednesday 14 December 2016      Policy and campaigns blog

Find out all you need to know about today's announcement

Today is the day that the Scottish Government revealed how they plan to improve the way we all access new medicines on our NHS.

At Breast Cancer Now we’ve been campaigning hard for a better system. We’ve reviewed today’s announcement and come up with the five essential things you need to know:

1. Negotiation should get smarter

The high price offered by drug companies for new innovative medicines can be a real hurdle to making them available on the NHS. The Scottish Government has announced that the NHS will now play a stronger role in negotiating the cost of medicines. Hopefully, we’ll now see more of an effort from both the NHS and drugs companies to try and reach a deal quickly.

2. There will be room for more flexible decisions

The drugs approval body – the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) – will have more freedom to say “yes” to promising drugs for a period of time in order to look more closely at how they work in the real world. That includes looking beyond the numbers to understand what access means for patients, their families and society.

3. Decisions to give individual patients drugs not available on the NHS should be fairer

At the moment, if a drug isn’t available on the NHS doctors can go through an application called an Individual Patient Treatment Request (IPTR). This is handled by your local Health Board. Questions have been raised around whether IPTR processes are applied fairly across the country. Today’s announcement means that IPTR will be scrapped and a new standardised system will replace it. On top of that, if you disagree with how your Health Board has handled your case, you will be able to go to a national appeal panel. This panel will also have the power to look across the country and other parts of the UK to judge whether you are being treated fairly.

4. You helped make this happen

Every response to our surveys, email to MSPs, tweet and Facebook post shared over the last year made a huge difference in convincing politicians to act. A special thank you also has to go to the courageous women who have shared their experience of a broken system. These big changes wouldn’t have happened without you.

5. We need these changes to happen quickly

Over the coming months Breast Cancer Now will be campaigning to make sure these changes happen as quickly as possible. Women with secondary breast cancer don’t have time to lose.

More information

Read our news story on the announcement

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About the author

Lawrence Cowan Author Profile

Lawrence Cowan is Policy and Campaigns Manager for Breast Cancer Now in Scotland.