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Page last updated at 08:19 GMT, Tuesday, 27 September 2011 09:19 UK

Cancer drugs costs 'not tenable'


A international group of doctors and medical professionals have found that too much is often spent on cancer drugs of limited benefit. The Lancet Oncology Commission, which was set up to assess cancer treatment and its price, and says generic drugs which are not attached to any pharmaceutical brand are often cheaper.

The UK spends about £6bn a year on cancer treatment, and the commission has said that said sometimes the benefits in extending life bear little relation to the cost.

Dr Karol Sikora, a leading oncologist and one of the members of the commission, told Today presenter Evan Davis that "the real problem is the sheer onslaught of drugs. Over the last six months, eight new drugs have come to market: average price, £9,000 a month. This is not a tenable way to move forward."

But Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at the Cancer Research UK charity, defended the expense, saying: "Yes, the costs of cancer treatment are rising but it's very important to remember that so is the chance of surviving cancer.

"We've made fantastic progress in the last 30 years and survival rates from cancer have doubled over that time, and there's no sign of this slowing down. It's very important to remember that the expensive treatment for an advanced cancer today may be highly effective when you use it at an earlier stage of the disease."

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