The Access to Cancer Treatment Bill 2012 proposed by Fianna Fail Senator Marc Mac Sharry and Independent Senator John Crown will guarantee the provision and availability of all European Medicines Agency Approved Cancer drugs unless the Government specifically opt out on grounds to be decided by the Minister for Health alone.
As things stand patients have no guarantee as to the provision of life saving cancer drugs often available to patients in other countries based purely on cost considerations. The Mac Sharry /Crown Bill ensures that the State will provide patients with access to life saving treatments as approved by the EMA, irrespective of the cost and subject only to the Minister of the day opting not to provide the drug.
Mac Sharry notes that “in the past decisions taken were based on cost per year of life saved alone but such criteria miss the reality that some drugs may have little impact on one patient while others may benefit hugely with extended remission or even cure. The reality is one size does not fit all. Cancer patients should be given every opportunity. The current situation is unacceptable. This legislation puts the patient first, assuring fair access to the best remedy modern medicine can provide while putting the onus on the state to opt out if necessary and only if in the best interest of the patient.
Independent Senator John Crown, a Consultant Oncologist who has co-sponsored the Bill, said: “There is no question that there is huge strain on resources in the HSE, however we must acknowledge that the health and economic aspects of cancer drugs are somewhat crude and this has led to bad decisions being taken in some jurisdictions. The Bill ensures transparency and accountability while acknowledging that those in power must make difficult decisions.”
Mac Sharry concluded ” recent controversies have shown the current system of determining the provision of cutting edge cancer treatments is flawed and needs to be addressed. To expect vulnerable cancer patients to adopt the ‘Joe Duffy’ approach to obtaining life saving treatment is inexcusable, we must put the patient first. This bill will do just that.”