More patients benefit as specialist cancer drugs fast track list expands

NHS England has today, for the first time, published figures showing the number of times patients have been prescribed specialist drugs that are available as part of the national Cancer Drugs Fund list.

The data shows an increase in the amount of drugs prescribed from the specialist list since April.

In April this year, NHS England took over operational management of the fund, creating a single national Cancer Drugs Fund list and a single system for deciding which drugs are available and for which conditions.

At the same time, NHS England has made drugs that were previously only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, routinely available in the NHS as well as adding five new drugs to the Cancer Drugs Fund list to treat 11 different indications of cancer. The majority of these drugs were added to the national list as soon as they were licensed, highlighting the responsiveness of the new centralised system and an overall increase in the availability of important cancer drugs.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was established in 2010. It provides an additional £200m each year to enable patients with cancer in England to receive access to drugs that are either not routinely available on the NHS or have not been approved or appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). It also provides fast track access to cancer drugs that are awaiting NICE guidance as well as access to drugs for less common cancers.

Professor Peter Clark, an Oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of NHS England’s Chemotherapy Clinical Reference Group, said: “NHS England has made some really key improvements in the administration of the Cancer Drugs Fund. This is aimed at reducing unacceptable variations in access to these cancer drugs and is a major step towards ensuring that patients have the same treatment options, wherever they live.

“It is also now much simpler for doctors to apply for these specialist drugs and most importantly means that potentially life changing drugs can be prescribed to patients who need them more quickly.”

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: “Drugs and treatments for cancer are evolving and expanding and it’s important that as a health service we keep up to date with the latest innovations.

“Treatments need to be based on individual patient needs. What is the right drug for one patient may not necessarily be right for another. What is clear though is that quick access to a wide range of possible treatments increases the range of treatment options available for patients and this can only be a good thing.”

All decisions are on clinical grounds, and are deemed as the best option for the patient.

The publication of the data is quarterly via the NHS England website. It is part of NHS England’s drive to increase transparency and access to data.