Government announces £160m boost for cancer drugs fund
The Department of Health has announced a £160m boost to a funding pot that pays for access to expensive cancer treatments in England.
The Cancer Drugs Fund, which has helped more than 55,000 cancer patients since it was set up four years ago, will be increased from £200m a year to £280m a year.
The move will mean many more patients with rare conditions will benefit from life-extending drugs recommended by their doctor.
“The Cancer Drugs Fund remains the only way that they can access expensive but effective cancer treatments that NICE cannot approve”
With the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year increasing by 9% since 2009, and the rising costs of ever more sophisticated drugs, the fund has an important role in helping patients receive treatment, enabling them to access drugs that are not routinely funded by the NHS.
Cancer experts at NHS England have also pinpointed two new cutting-edge drugs which will be added to the fund, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
These are enzalutamide (Xtandi) for prostate cancer, and lenalidomide (Revlimid) for a new group of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood condition.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It’s vitally important that as many people as possible have access to these pioneering, life-enhancing drugs, and we need to continue to focus our efforts on increasing access to these innovative treatments, whilst ensuring that all patients continue to receive the effective drugs which are right for them.”
Following an extension in 2013, the fund is confirmed until March 2016. Longer term, the Department of Health will consider carefully with NHS England the best course of action for the fund in the future. The new money means the amount committed will be £1.16bn in total.
Professor Peter Clark, chair of the fund, has written to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens recommending the fund’s panel of experts re-evaluate a number of drugs currently on the list, making decisions about what will deliver greatest benefit to patients. NHS England has accepted and agreed to these proposals.
“Within this extra funding we want to ensure the drugs provide maximum benefits to patients and that the CDF incentivises responsible pricing by drug companies”
Professor Clark said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund has had a positive impact on cancer treatment for patients, with 2,000 people gaining access to the fund every month. To ensure patients continue to have access to the best innovative treatments now and in the future, we must re-evaluate some of the drugs on the list.
“This is absolutely the right thing to do for patients, and I am pleased Simon Stevens has accepted my recommendations,” he said.
Mr Stevens said: “Since its inception, the Cancer Drugs Fund has successfully enabled the funding of new cancer medicines for tens of thousands of patients in England. We want to build on that success by expanding funding again this year to enable cancer patients to access innovative effective new treatments.
“Within this extra funding we want to ensure the drugs provide maximum benefits to patients and that the CDF incentivises responsible pricing by drug companies. We want to create a sustainable Cancer Drugs Fund that will ensure patients don’t miss out on innovative treatments that are on the horizon.”
Mr Stevens has also asked Professor Clark to work with health guidance organisation NICE, patient groups and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry to develop options for ensuring greater alignment between CDF and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence assessment processes.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: “This is good news for patients because the Cancer Drugs Fund remains the only way that they can access expensive but effective cancer treatments that NICE cannot approve.
“The changes proposed today should improve the way that the fund operates and make better use of the money available. However, we remain concerned that this is not a long-term solution to the problem of access to drugs that currently exists in the UK,” she said.
“We’ve seen several highly effective breast cancer drugs, such as Kadcyla, rejected for routine use on the NHS due to their high cost,” she said. “It’s encouraging therefore to see the Department of Health commit to putting pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to review the way in which they choose to price their products as we believe this is key to solving the problem.
She added: “Innovative, effective drugs sitting on the shelf are of no use to anybody, least of all patients. Until we have a sustainable system in place, the future availability of the treatments that NICE are forced to reject will continue to remain uncertain.”