At the start of September, we were extremely disappointed to learn that a number of blood cancer drugs are to be removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), making them unavailable to NHS patients in England. NHS England announced that seven different blood cancer drugs will be delisted for 12 different blood cancer indications, making up nearly half of the total 25 cancer indications made unavailable to patients.
It is important to note that patients already taking any of the drugs for any of the indications de-listed in the announcement will be allowed to continue to take them, but after the changes come into effect on 4 November this year, no further patients will be able to start taking them. These changes have been made to prevent the CDF being overspent ahead of a new system of drug provision due to begin in April 2016.
On the day of the announcement, Diana Jupp, our Director of Patient Experience, said:
“This will remove the only hope of effective treatment for many blood cancer patients. The existing system for approving new cancer drugs is clearly failing patients. Many blood cancer patients will be left in limbo until a long term solution is put in place next year. For some this will be too late. These drugs have been recognised as being clinically effective, yet patients in England will be denied access purely because the current system is broken.
The Cancer Taskforce recently published its recommendations for improving cancer care to comparable levels of the rest of Europe. Ensuring that patients have access to the best drugs available is surely a key part of this.”
What we’re doing
We have written to NHS England to express our concern on behalf of blood cancer patients, and ask for reassurance as to how they plan to ensure innovative medicines reach the patients that need them. We are working with our clinical advisors to understand whether patients will be able to access any of the delisted medicines through alternative routes on the NHS. We will also respond to the Government consultation on the new drug assessment process when it is published, and make the case that patients need to access the full range of medicines available, and the new system will need to establish how between the Government, the NHS and industry, a pricing and access system can deliver for patients. As a research charity we are concerned that restricting access to new and innovative treatments could ultimately dis-incentivise future cancer research.
We are continuing to work with our colleagues in other blood cancer charities and there is also work being undertaken by the Cancer Campaigning Group and Cancer 52, two coalition organisations consisting of all the major cancer charities in the UK – alongside the work we are doing ourselves, working in partnership with other major cancer charities will add strength to campaigning efforts to get patients access to the drugs they need.
About the CDF
The CDF was set up five years ago as a temporary measure to provide, on a case by case basis, cancer patients with access to drugs that were still being appraised or had been rejected by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Drugs used to treat blood cancers are proportionally overrepresented on the list of drugs only available to patients through the CDF.
The CDF is due to be replaced with a new system in April next year and it is widely accepted that a more permanent and robust system is needed to evaluate which cancer drugs should be available to patients through the NHS in England.