NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has announced plans for a £160m initiative to roll-out ‘COVID-friendly’ cancer treatments for patients across the UK.
The funding will be used to pay for treatments, which do not have as big an impact on patients’ immune systems and require less hospital visits compared to other drugs.
As some these new options require few or no hospital visits, patients are less susceptible to contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, as well as other infections.
According to the NHS, thousands of cancer patients have already benefitted from around 50 treatments approved for use in place of existing drugs.
More treatments are expected to become available this week, after a number of new deals were struck between the NHS and pharma companies.
This includes targeted hormone therapies such as Astellas/Pfizer’s Xtandi (enzalutamide) for prostate cancer, Celgene’s myeloma treatment Revlimid (lenalidomide) and Roche’s PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab) for first-line bladder cancer.
“Since the first case of COVID in England six months ago, NHS staff have fast tracked new, innovative ways of working so that other services, including A&E, cancer and maternity could continue safely for patients and it is thanks to these incredible efforts that 65,000 people could start treatment for cancer during the pandemic,” said Stevens.
“We are now adopting new, kinder treatment options which are not only effective but safer for use during the COVID-19 pandemic and more convenient for thousands of patients, who can take medication at home or be given medicines with less harmful effects on their immune system,” he added.