The Cancer Drugs Fund, a key part of David Cameron’s election campaign, is under threat.
The fund was set up in 2010 so that life-saving drugs considered too expensive for routine NHS use would still be available to patients who would benefit from them most. But now more than 40 drugs, around half the total, will be reviewed in mid-December as new rules on cost-effectiveness are introduced by NHS England.
Six of the drugs in danger of being removed from the list of accepted medicines are for breast cancer. Caitlin Palframan, the senior policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “We’re deeply concerned that several very effective breast cancer drugs appear on the list of drugs at risk of de-listing due to their high price.
“The fund is the only way women in England can routinely access these drugs that can offer them months, or even years, of additional good quality life.”
Prostate Cancer UK said the fund was “on the brink” because of financial pressures, and called for government to find a better strategy for funding cancer drugs.
Owen Sharp, the charity’s chief executive, said “A long-term solution is urgently needed that delivers an overhaul of the way new cancer drugs are appraised.” Prof Peter Clark, the chairman of the Cancer Drugs Fund and an oncologist, said: “The Fund has delivered major benefits to many patients, but if this is to continue we have to act now. “We have got to make sure that the Cancer Drugs Fund delivers drugs, which offer good clinical benefit at reasonable prices so the Cancer Drugs Fund can treat the largest number of patients.”
Prof Peter Johnson, the chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said:”In the long run we still need a robust way of assessing new treatments to determine what the NHS can fund, so that cancer patients get the best, evidence-based treatments for their condition.”
NHS England says that a national Cancer Drugs Fund panel, to include patient representatives as well as doctors and pharmacists, will meet in mid-December, to decide which drugs should stay and which be dropped from the list. Their decisions will be published in the new year.