Cancer patients in Northern Ireland will soon have access to life-saving or health prolonging drugs that were previously unavailable on the health service.
The Department of Health has announced changes to the Individual Funding Request (IRF) policy which are to be implemented as a 'priority'.
It will finally see patients here have the same access to cancer drugs as patients in other UK regions.
On Wednesday, the Department confirmed the changes to the IFR process, and explained improvements in access arrangements for patients to innovative new medicines for cancer and other conditions.
Drugs approved by NICE for use through the Cancer Drug Fund in England will now be considered in line with existing arrangements for NI endorsement of NICE recommendations.
It’s estimated the changes could cost an additional £2 million to £2.5 million per year.
Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of Department of Health, has said: “New drugs for cancer and other life threatening and debilitating illnesses come on to the market every year. Unfortunately, our approach did not properly take account of changes to the NICE approval process, and patients here had difficulty accessing such drugs. This has been a major cause of frustration for both patients and clinicians.
He added: “It is clearly in the public interest that we moved to address this, and I am delighted that Northern Ireland patients will now have the same access to cancer drugs as their counterparts in other UK regions.”