Chris West
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Update on the Cancer Drugs Fund

Chris West
Posted by
19 Feb 2016

Some background on the Cancer Drug Fund and drugs for blood cancer patients.

The Government’s consultation on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) closed in February 2016 – here we provide an update on the new proposals, what we think about them and what we’re going to do next.

With the consultation now closed, the Government will go through all the formal responses before the new CDF is introduced this April.

First, a quick recap. The current CDF was introduced in 2010 as a means of providing patients with access to cancer drugs if they weren't seen as sufficiently cost effective for NHS use by NICE (the Government agency responsible for assessing new medicines). If treatments were rejected by NICE, as many cancer treatments are, the CDF was a pot of money that could be used to ensure NHS patients could still receive them, acting as a financial safety net.

However, as more cancer drugs were developed, and then made available through the CDF, the CDF became overspent – it simply couldn’t afford to fund all new cancer drugs that were cost effective.  This led to some drugs being removed from the CDF in January and September last year. Some were then reinstated.The CDF in the current form was only ever meant to be a short term fix, and in recent months it's become clear that a long term solution is required.

The new proposals aim to be the first stage of this long term solution. In the proposed new system, the CDF in its current form will disappear. However, a new version of the CDF will be introduced to fund drugs that have the potential to be cost effective, but require more data before NICE can make a final decision. So when NICE review a new treatment, they will now make one of three decisions: approve it for NHS use, reject it, or approve it on an interim basis while more data is gathered. In this third option, the drug will be provided to NHS patients and funded through the CDF for a maximum of two years.

In our submission, we welcomed the idea of providing interim funding for a promising treatment that requires more data. But overall, we have concerns as to what the proposed new system will mean for patients. 

We know that NICE has often rejected new cancer drugs, essentially because they see them as too expensive for the NHS to afford. In the new proposals, there's no information about how NICE will assess new cancer drugs – they've turned down many in recent years, so we need reassurances that NICE and the pharmaceutical industry will work together effectively to get treatments to the patients that need them.

All the treatments currently being provided on the CDF will now have to go through NICE, and this will probably happen at some point in 2016. We're currently talking to clinicians, other patient groups and industry to establish what the impact of this might be for blood cancer treatments.

Between now and April, we'll be working to establish a clearer picture of could happen to current blood cancer treatments (and those due to be launched in the near future) when they're appraised by NICE. With the financial safety net of the old CDF disappearing in April, treatments will have to be approved by NICE if they're to be available to NHS patients, so how NICE appraises these drugs is crucial. During the weeks ahead, we'll be working closely with others in the blood cancer sector. As well as our Bloodwise response, we also signed a joint response from the Blood Cancer Alliance, a group of all patient organisations with an interest in blood cancer, and we’ll continue the dialogue with these charities to assess the potential impact on blood cancer patients.

We'll need patient input over the coming weeks, so look out for how you can get involved on our website and social media channels. This is a complex issue and we’ve only provided a very top line overview of the consultation and our response here, so if you’d like more information, please get in touch with us at .  

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