12 Nov 2014

NHS England have just announced major changes to England’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) – the safety net for doctors to get hold of cancer drugs for their patients when they aren’t recommended for general use on the NHS. The CDF is running over budget and has been looking at how it can save money.

From now on, NHS England will look at the price of new drugs as well as how well they work, before deciding whether or not they can be accessed through the CDF. They’ll also be having a second look at some of the drugs currently available through the fund to see whether they will keep funding these treatments.

We have been told that anyone currently receiving drugs through the Cancer Drugs Fund will not be affected by these changes. In terms of the effect on prostate cancer drugs, we understand that later this year they will be reviewing whether the drug cabazitaxel will continue to be available to new patients. We’ll keep you updated on any developments.

We know the CDF isn’t an unlimited money pot, and it’s not surprising that it can’t afford to keep funding every effective cancer drug, regardless of price. Unfortunately, the current system of assessment has given very little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to consider lowering their prices. Why? Because when effective cancer drugs are too expensive for NICE to recommend them for routine use on the NHS, they know that they can sell them in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund at any price.

The new system for getting drugs funded by the CDF will save some money by not paying for expensive drugs that have limited benefits. However, we urgently need to improve the way drugs are appraised and priced for use in health services, so we can ensure every man with prostate cancer gets the drugs he needs. No matter where he lives.  

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “Whilst we welcome the clarity provided by these proposed reforms, the huge deficit that has brought the Cancer Drugs Fund to the brink is the result of a failed drug appraisal system that continues to deny thousands of cancer patients access to effective drugs that they clearly need.

"A long-term solution is urgently needed that delivers an overhaul of the way new cancer drugs are appraised. To work there must be greater collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry to develop measures that combat the over-pricing of new cancer drugs and make them affordable for the NHS. We will be holding NHS England, NICE and the government to their commitment to work closely with patients and clinicians to make this happen.”

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