NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens has announced the roll-out of ‘COVID-friendly’ cancer treatments that are safer for patients during the pandemic. The treatments will be expanded and extended through a £160 million NHS initiative.
The funding will be used to pay for drugs that do not have a big effect on the immune system or offer other benefits, such as fewer hospital visits or tablets that can be taken at home. Fewer hospital visits will reduce potential exposure to coronavirus or other infections. Hospitals and GP surgeries have also started remote consultations to prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital or GP. COVID-secure cancer hubs have been set up to safely provide surgery for those who need it. The introduction of ‘111 First’ has provided help and advice to millions of patients over the phone and internet, ensuring those who need medical help are directed to the right services.
Already, thousand of patients have benefited from almost 50 treatments that have been swapped for existing drugs. This has been made possible through a series of deals between pharmaceutical companies and the NHS.
Some treatment options now available include:
- Venetoclax in acute myeloid leukaemia as an oral alternative to more toxic standard chemotherapy
- Nivolumab for patients with bowel cancer whose cancers have a specific genetic fingerprint
- Ixazomib in myeloma as an oral alternative to treatment which would require more hospital visits and injections
- Atezolizumab as first-line immunotherapy for bladder cancer instead of chemotherapy.