Cancer patients in England will no longer have to pay prescription charges for medicines that treat their side effects, starting in April. Drugs that will be exempt include those that address pain, nausea, chronic diarrhea, fatigue, and mouth ulcers. Tamoxifen and other long-term hormone treatments are also currently subject to this charge.
Most medicines prescribed outside of hospitals by National Health Service (NHS) doctors are subject to a fixed charge of £7.10 (about $10.00) per item. Currently, patients being treated under the auspices of the NHS pay nothing for intravenous or oral chemotherapy drugs, analgesics, or antiemetics that are used during therapy sessions.
Cancer patients in England only (not the UK in general) can apply for a certificate that will exempt them from paying charges for prescription drugs for five years. They will remain eligible for free prescriptions even if they get the “all clear” before the five-year period is up. Th e exemption certificate can be renewed as many times as necessary, and it can be used when collecting any medicine prescribed by a general physician.
Up to 150,000 people already diagnosed with cancer stand to benefit from the scheme at an estimated cost to the NHS of £15 million ($21.5 million).
Government officials want to balance this loss of revenue by making greater use of generic products and by bulk-buying drugs more often.