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As health chief prepare to impose tight restrictions on the NHS for expensive new drugs, charities warn that those with cancer and dementia will be the ones taking the brunt of these “savings”.

Last month The Times revealed that the government has given NHS England the power to restrict or delay treatments that cost more than £20million a year, in a bid to stop other services having to be cut to pay for these medicines.

They hope that this strategy will put pressure on the drug companies to lower the prices.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s society, Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, and Mark Flannagan wrote to The Times.

The letter said: “If successful, we foresee a bleak future in which patient needs will take a back seat to financial considerations. For patients relying on new treatments, such as those living with dementia and cancer, this proposal could be devastating.”

The concern that costs is being put before patients is leading to many campaigners predicting a bleak future for those with dementia and cancer.

All drugs are approved by the National Institute of Health and Care (NICE), under the new regulations they will now have to undergo an additional affordability test.

NHS England is under pressure to stick to its £15.6 billion specialised care fund, as it has repeatedly overspent in the past.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, told The Times: “Patients won’t be denied treatments as a result of these proposals. Nice isn’t going to take affordability into account in deciding whether the NHS should use a new treatment. When Nice recommends something new, NHS England will still have to make it available. Where the cost of doing so is very high, it makes sense to introduce new treatments in a way that doesn’t compromise other services.”

He continued to say that it was right that drug companies helped the NHS to control costs.

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