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Our response to the proposed changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund

written by

Leukaemia Care, Charity

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The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) introduced in 2010 has enabled thousands of cancer patients in England to access treatments which are not available within the mainstream NHS in England, because they have not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). They may be unavailable because they are yet to be assessed or because NICE has determined that they are either not effective enough or not cost effective enough for mainstream funding.

The CDF panel are set to re-evaluate 42 drugs which are currently available via the CDF on the 15th and 16th of December. They will be evaluated using new rules introduced by NHS England to determine whether the treatments are cost-effective. The panel will determine whether to continue providing funding for these treatments, as well as considering a list of new drugs. Any changes made to the availability of treatments will not affect any patients who are currently receiving any of these treatments, but will impact on the availability of these drugs for future patients.

The blood cancer drugs which are being reassessed are: ofatumumab, idelalisib, bosutinib, dasatinib, bendamustine, bortezomib, brentuximab, lenalidomide and pomalidomide.

For full information on the reassessment, click on the full list of the drugs here.

The motives for this reassessment are financial, not clinical. The CDF was originally set up with a £200m-a-year budget, which has since been increased to £280m.  However, this budget increase has not been enough to address the CDF’s alleged recent overspend. On top of this overspend on the current available drugs there is also a need for funds to be freed up to pay for new drugs. Whilst these are both legitimate needs, the potential for effective treatments to be delisted is concerning.

The CDF enables patients to have access to cancer medicines that are routinely available in other EU countries. The UK still lags behind many countries including Germany, France and North America with regards to access to medicines for patients and whilst the CDF currently goes some way to resolving these issues, we feel removing drugs from the approved list would only put the UK further behind. There have been numerous calls for an overhaul of the way in which drugs are appraised and with the CDF set to end in March 2016, a long-term solution needs to be found to ensure that effective treatments can continue to be provided.

Monica Izmajlowicz, Leukaemia CARE Chief Executive, said: “We are concerned at the potential for effective blood cancer treatments to be removed from the approved list. The Cancer Drugs Fund is the only way patients can access these drugs. Removing them will mean that patients cannot access these drugs which can offer patients more time with their families and an improvement in their quality of life. The CDF was set up to provide funding for clinically effective treatments which were determined by NICE to not be cost effective. We are concerned that introducing a cost based assessment into the CDF will impact on the overall utility of the CDF, because effective treatments will not be funded simply because of their high prices.”

For further information please click here