Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?


NHS increases budget for cancer drugs fund from £280 million in 2014/15 to an expected £340 million in 2015/16

The NHS Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) has announced that their budget will increase from £200 million in 2013/14, to £280 million in 2014/15, and an estimated £340 million from April 2015.

The CDF also announced projected savings of approximately £80 million through a combination of negotiated price reductions and improved clinical effectiveness. They argue that if such savings were not made, offsetting cuts in other aspects of cancer treatment such as radiotherapy, cancer diagnoses, cancer surgery, and other important NHS services for other patient groups would be necessary.

A national panel carried out a detailed assessment of the evidence, looking at the:

  • clinical benefit
  • survival and quality of life
  • toxicity and safety of treatment
  • level of unmet need
  • median cost per patient; in cases where the high cost of a drug would lead to its exclusion from CDF, manufacturers were given an opportunity to reduce prices

Thus, 59 of the 84 most effective currently approved indications of drugs will rollover into the CDF next year, creating room for new drug indications that will be funded for the first time.

Following these changes, four important patient protections are in place:

  • any patient currently receiving a drug through the CDF will continue to receive it, regardless of whether it remains in the CDF
  • drugs which are the only therapy for the cancer in question will remain available through the CDF
  • if the CDF panel removes a drug for a particular indication, some patients may instead be able to receive it in another line of therapy or receive an alternative CDF approved drug
  • clinicians can apply for their patient to receive a drug not available through the CDF on an exceptional basis

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) and a practising oncologist, said:

“We have been through a robust, evidence-based process to ensure the drugs available offer the best clinical benefit, getting the most for patients from every pound.

“There were drugs that did not offer sufficient clinical benefit so we simply cannot go on funding those. There were others that offered some benefit but were costly and I am pleased that a number of pharmaceutical firms worked with us to make prices more affordable, saving millions of pounds that can now be reinvested in other treatments.

“These are difficult decisions, but if we don’t prioritise the drugs that offer the best value, many people could miss out on promising, more effective treatments that are in the pipeline.”