Today the Department of Health in Northern Ireland announced a major shake-up that will see much better access to ovarian cancer drugs across the country, designed to make sure people in Northern Ireland have the same access to cancer drugs as the rest of the UK.
Among other measures, the Department of Health will make drugs approved by England’s Cancer Drugs Fund equally accessible in Northern Ireland. This should include crucial ovarian cancer drugs bevacizumab (Avastin ®) and niraparib (Zejula ®). Olaparib, which is also available on the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales, should also become more widely available.
Access to innovative new cancer drugs in Northern Ireland has previously been patchy at best. Although Northern Ireland authorities have been consulting on access to medicines, there has been little movement on access to drugs over the past few years, despite strong campaigning from cancer charities including Target Ovarian Cancer.
Side by side with our supporters and women from Northern Ireland who have had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, we have been campaigning for better access to ovarian cancer drugs in Northern Ireland for a long time. Pathfinder Northern Ireland, which launched at Stormont in 2017, showed us the need to push for major change in this area. In June 2018 after the announcement that niraparib would be available in England and Wales, Target Ovarian Cancer’s ovarian cancer campaigning network kicked into action to campaign for access to niraparib in Northern Ireland, with 212 emails written to local representatives. As a charity we also wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to ask for better access to niraparib in Northern Ireland.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “For many women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Northern Ireland, today’s decision is lifechanging. This is very positive and long-awaited news, and we hope that a timeline for delivery will follow hot on the heels of this announcement, so that women who have had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer can access the latest ovarian cancer drugs.”