Cancer treatments funding to end

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Published: Monday 12th January 2015 by The News Editor

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The Government is to stop funding 25 cancer treatments as part of efforts to cut costs by £80 million.

NHS England has announced that the budget for the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), launched by David Cameron in 2010, will rise to £340 million in April from £280 million.

But a review carried out by doctors, pharmacists and patients’ representatives has concluded that 25 of the 84 treatments currently offered by the supplementary fund should be dropped.

The prices for others have been reduced after negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, and three new drugs will be available through the fund in future.

The changes are intended to prevent the cost of the fund – originally £200 million – soaring to an estimated £420 million next year.

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Fund 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.”

Most cancer drugs are financed through normal budgets, with the CDF providing an additional route for accessing treatments.

NHS England stressed that patients currently receiving a drug through the fund would keep getting it, even if it was removed from the list.

Doctors can also apply for people to be prescribed drugs on an “exceptional basis”.

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “This is bad news for bowel cancer patients. It’s likely that 65% of patients with advanced bowel cancer face the probability of an earlier death by being refused innovative treatments that were available before.

“These changes are a backward step in treatment for advanced bowel cancer. Doctors will be forced to tell their patients there are treatments that can prolong their lives but they will no longer be available.”

He added: “The process by which these decisions have been made has fundamentally failed patients. We are extremely concerned that these decisions have been made without sufficient consideration being given to the views of charities and patients in terms of what it really means to have these treatments and the confidence of doctors to prescribe them.”

Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Today’s announcement is just another symptom of a drug appraisal system in meltdown. It underlines yet again the critical need for a more effective overall solution to the commissioning of cancer drugs across the whole of the UK, with the full cooperation from the pharmaceutical industry.

“Those at the very top of the Department of Health have pledged to make reform to the commissioning of cancer drugs a priority, but we are yet to see action. We are determined to hold those responsible to account on this pledge. We won’t stop until we get the system that is right for cancer patients now and in the future. The time is now.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund has already helped over 60,000 people access drugs and next year we will spend £340m so people get the drugs they need.

“Advances in medical science mean that new medicines are emerging all the time and we want people to have access to the very latest drugs. That is why experts have made decisions to stop routinely funding drugs with limited clinical benefit, so we can make way for new and better drugs that offer more to patients.

“The Government has protected the NHS as part of the long term economic plan – this allows important initiatives like the Cancer Drugs Fund to exist.”

Published: Monday 12th January 2015 by The News Editor

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