Abiraterone and enzalutamide remain but radium-223 will no longer be available on the NHS – although those currently on treatment will continue. We look at the details of today's decision, why it's happened and what it means for men with prostate cancer.

4 Sep 2015

The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which was set up to pay for new and expensive cancer drugs for NHS patients in 2011 and is due to be wound up next year, is no longer affordable for the NHS. This is because more and more cancer drugs have been developed, they cost a lot of money, and a lot of people want to get hold of them.

NHS England has, as a result, had to become stricter about what it will and will not pay for through the CDF. This led to a new process of ‘delisting’ drugs from the CDF. The first round of delisting saw prostate cancer drug cabazitaxel removed from the CDF in January, but thankfully it has since been placed back on the list and is again available to the men who need it via the CDF.

Today NHS England has announced the outcome of a second round of delisting. This time, NHS England considered three prostate cancer drugs: abiraterone (Zytiga®), enzalutamide (Xtandi®) and radium-223 (Xofigo®).

We are extremely relieved that both abiraterone and enzalutamide, which between them benefit thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer each year, will remain on the CDF.

However, NHS England has decided to stop funding radium-223 (Xofigo®), another treatment for advanced prostate cancer.

If you’re already being treated with radium-223 via the CDF the most important take home message is that your treatment will continue for as long as your doctor thinks you need it, regardless of whether NHS England decides to stop funding it. In addition, if your doctor decides that you should receive this treatment within two months of NHS England announcing its decision, you will still be able to get hold of and continue treatment with radium-223, for as long as you need.

Current situation is unsustainable

We know that the CDF is overspent, which is why NHS England needs to cut back on the drugs it funds. We also know that the current situation is unsustainable. But we really don’t think that patients should be bearing the brunt of a broken system. So while NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) establish a more sustainable way of funding cancer drugs, we will fight to make sure that men don’t fall through a gap in the system.

Meanwhile, we urge pharmaceutical companies to make sure that their drugs are affordable.

Radium-223 is currently going through the NICE appraisal system for routine use on the NHS in England, and the result is expected in January 2016. We are fully involved with this process and are doing everything we can to make sure that NICE makes the right decision for men, and will update you as soon as we know more.

Our chief executive, Owen Sharp, says:

“It will be a relief to many men that two very important new prostate cancer treatments have been kept on the fund. However this is not a long term solution. Pharmaceutical companies must now do whatever is necessary to ensure these treatments are made routinely available as soon as possible. It is disappointing that Radium 223 has been removed from the Fund while it is still waiting for a final appraisal decision from NICE, and we want to see arrangements put in place so that no man who needs this drug misses out on access in the interim.

“It is baffling that this process is happening at all before ongoing discussions about reform of the Fund have reached conclusion. It highlights once again that all parties involved in drug appraisal and access need to be doing more and working faster to ensure we have streamlined system which works for patients. This includes the pharmaceutical companies working as hard as possible to make treatments affordable to the NHS.”

If you have questions or concerns about what the changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund could mean for you or a friend or family member, please get in touch with our Specialist Nurses.

Read this next:

Major changes announced to England's Cancer Drugs Fund

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. From now on, NHS England will look at the price of new drugs as well as how well they work.

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