Excellence in Communications - Payers/Policy Makers

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Securing Equity of Access to Cancer Medicines in Northern Ireland

by Hanover Communications for Bristol-Myers Squibb

Summary of work

In 2013, the Northern Ireland (NI) Government committed to follow the recommendations made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). There was an expectation that patients in NI could be treated by any medicine approved by NICE, but this was not the case.

The NI Department of Health did not extend patient access to medicines recommended for use through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). In 2018, an estimated 32 NI patients per month were being denied access to innovative cancer medicines available in England and Wales.

Multi-stakeholder activity was the only way to persuade the Department to use existing powers to resolve the issue. A roundtable at Stormont and engagement at Westminster helped achieve cross-party collaboration and brought about parliamentary scrutiny of the policy. Collaboration between patient advocacy, political, clinical and pharmaceutical industry partners and amplification of other stakeholder activity helped contribute to securing policy change. The resulting decision by the NI Department of Health to allow access to medicines made available through the CDF has the potential to have a life-changing impact for cancer patients in NI.

Judges’ comments

This project bought the key stakeholders together in a solid, well-planned campaign. BMS and Hanover achieved their objectives against a difficult background through a good communications strategy. The judges look forward to hearing more on this project.