UK health insurer WPA has introduced a new insurance product, Mycancerdrugs, which gives consumers access to life-saving but costly cancer drugs not available from the country's National Health Service.

Mycancerdrugs is a new type of National Health Service (NHS) top-up insurance that allows consumers to get ‘wonder drugs’ such as Herceptin, Avastin and Tarceva not currently available to them on the NHS, for an annual cost that can be as little as the price of a tank of petrol.

Annual premiums cost the same as the customer’s age, plus a 5% insurance premium tax, although the price doubles for smokers. The maximum age of cover is 65 years.

WPA said that demand for a top-up health insurance product has been highlighted by research studies. The insurer cites YouGov research, which showed that 74% of people are willing to pay extra for cancer care on top of what the NHS provides.

Mycancerdrugs provides up to GBP50,000 lifetime benefit for advanced cancer drugs that have been licensed by the EMEA. Where the NHS declines to administer the drug, Mycancerdrugs will fund all the costs directly associated with administering the drug in the private sector up to the GBP50,000 lifetime benefit.

The policy is not available to consumers who have had, or currently have, cancer, those on a medically supervised health screening or review program because they are considered to be at a higher risk of developing cancer, or those who have a parent or sibling who developed or died from cancer before the age of 60.

WPA is addressing a subject that Whitehall refuses to discuss in the open, stated Professor Karol Sikora of cancer services organization Cancerpartners. Getting patients to contribute to their healthcare costs is already happening throughout the UK and we really need to plan for a mixed healthcare system where patients can openly work in partnership with the providers of care.