After months of consultation and negotiation, the proposed changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund come into effect. But do they go far enough for men with prostate cancer?
Today the proposed changes to the way the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England operates come into effect with the aim to give patients access to new and innovative cancer drugs from the earliest possible opportunity. Under the new reforms, the CDF will be transformed into a fund that gives patients access to new treatments that NICE consider cost-effective, but where the clinical benefit isn't certain and needs further evaluation. Although the majority of new prostate cancer drugs are now available routinely through the NHS, these changes could hold the key to whether new prostate cancer treatments are made available to men in the future.
However, the success of the reforms is dependent on a number of crucial factors and so how they will actually pan out in reality remains to be seen.
The NHS has a finite pot of money and so understandably it needs to make sure new treatments are cost-effective, which is why pressure is being placed on the pharmaceutical industry to make their prices affordable. But the new reforms require industry to lower their prices even further – and potentially also pay a rebate – if patients are to get early access to new treatments while more trial data is collected to demonstrate their benefits. This means that patients face being held ransom to successful negotiations between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS on cost, which is a major concern. If negotiations fail, the treatment won’t be approved, and patients will lose out.
The reforms place all the responsibility for patient access to new and innovative treatments on the pharmaceutical industry’s willingness to drop their prices.
Thanks to the coordinated efforts between Prostate Cancer UK and other cancer charities, under the newly agreed proposals all eligible patients will now be able to access treatments while they are in the CDF, rather than treatments only being available to a limited number of people. And although we are pleased to see that our work behind the scenes has made some gains following our feedback on the original proposal released in February, there’s still much more to be done.
That’s why we're continuing to push for more reforms, while playing an active part in the ongoing NICE appraisal and funding process, to make sure prostate cancer treatments are approved as early as possible. We will be working to make sure that NICE decisions are based on a much broader body of evidence and that the pharmaceutical industry is given the chance to offer pricing options that work for them as well as being affordable for the NHS.
Heather Blake, Director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Men cannot continue to spend years fighting for access to every new prostate cancer treatment that comes to market. A more streamlined system for assessing and appraising cancer drugs is needed, which makes the right decisions first time around.
“Although the CDF reforms aim to address this issue, they place all the responsibility for patient access to new and innovative treatments on the pharmaceutical industry’s willingness to drop their prices, meaning that cancer patients are once again left in limbo.
“Leaving patients with this uncertainty is unacceptable. We urge NICE and NHS England to share some of the burden by adding more flex to their process. This means broadening how they establish a treatment’s benefits, facilitating flexible pricing negotiations and putting patients’ interests first.”