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Details of proposed new Cancer Drug Fund revealed

NICE will select which drugs are included for up to two years while more data is collected for full evaluation

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 20 November 2015

Proposals for a new Cancer Drug Fund for England have been published in a consultation document by NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The current Cancer Drug Fund was launched in 2011 to make promising cancer drugs available to patients that had not recommended for use on the NHS by NICE. This includes drugs that have yet to be evaluated by NICE but also some drugs which NICE has deemed unaffordable, and this is considered to be no longer sustainable. The costs of the fund have risen dramatically from an initial £200 million per year to £340 million in 2015-16.

Professor Peter Clark, chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund, said: “The Cancer Drug Fund has enabled thousands of cancer patients to access treatments that were not routinely available on the NHS. However, there is now a consensus that in its current form it is no longer fit for purpose and needs to evolve – better targeting those drugs with greatest promise."

The consultation document proposes the Cancer Drug Fund will including only drugs that have yet to be fully assessed by NICE and only those "with genuine promise”. When a drug comes on to the market, NICE will recommend it, reject it or include it in the Cancer Drug Fund for up to two years while more data is collected.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "Over the next five years we're likely to see many new cancer drugs coming on to the worldwide market, some of which will be major therapeutic breakthroughs and some of which will turn out to offer little extra patient benefit but at enormous cost.

"The new Cancer Drugs Fund offers a route for sorting out the wheat from the chaff, so that patients in England get faster access to the genuinely most promising new treatments."

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “The joint NHS England and NICE proposals will ensure that the Cancer Drugs Fund is used to provide patients with promising medicines at a fair price, and at the same time, generate additional data to help the NHS make a longer term decision on whether and how to use them.”

Alison Clough, acting chief executive of the ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), said: “Whilst we need time to fully assess the proposals in detail, we are encouraged by today's announcement.

“NHS England and NICE have listened to the industry on a number of important issues - the process will be NICE led and managed and will allow a period of conditional acceptance of new medicines while they are given time to prove their worth. We believe this is the right move.”

The consultation lasts for 12 weeks.

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