NHS faces backlash over Cancer Drugs Fund treatments changes

NHS England announced this week a decision to reassess 42 drugs that are available as part of the Cancer Drugs Fund. The decision comes as a result of current spending expected to be £100m over the initial budget of £280m for this financial year. With the current system viewed as unsustainable, price caps have been brought in for the first time as NHS England claims that there are new drugs that will do more for patients.

The full list of those drugs to be taken off the approved list is expected early next week, however some pharmaceutical companies have come out in opposition in advance to show their discontent. Sanofi’s prostate cancer drug Jevtana is to be pulled, along with Eisai’s breast cancer therapy Halaven. Eisai Company President Gary Handler came out in fierce opposition stating, “To say that we are disappointed by the decision would be a gross understatement, we are outraged. We now call on the government to stop this arbitrary removal of drugs”.

The Cancer Drugs Fund Chairman, Professor Peter Clark, himself an oncologist, provided the business reasoning behind the strategic change, “We need to get maximum value for every pound we spend. We can no longer sustain a position where we are funding drugs that don’t offer sufficient clinical benefit when drugs that will do more for patients are coming on stream”. There was however some reassurance to patients, as those that are currently having drugs paid for by the fund will not be affected by any changes that will come into effect in March 2015. Cancer charities have been mixed in their response to the decision on price restrictions, with the potential for patient care being damaged the main cause for concern.

The announcement has once again brought up the question of sustainability and longevity surrounding the initiative. With many viewing the Fund as having done a great job in getting patients access to drugs and treatments towards the end of their life, the Fund has certainly been beneficial to patients. However, with these latest developments, government both incumbent and opposition, are being challenged to find a sustainable long-term alternative that can provide patients the desired treatments within an affordable business model.

Are you or others you know affected by the changes to the fund? Let us know what you think! If you are interested in learning more about cancer innovations and how to bring better therapies to market, find cancer earlier and prolong life then join us at the Cancer Innovation Congress, Royal Garden Hotel, London, 20 & 21 October 2015.

*photo taken from NHS England Cancer Drugs Fund webpage.