NHS England sets out plan for a sustainable Cancer Drugs Fund

NHS England has today pledged a £160m boost over two years for the Cancer Drugs Fund, giving more patients access to innovative drugs not routinely available on the NHS.

Two new drugs will now also be added to the Fund; enzalutamide for prostate cancer and lenalidomide for a group of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood condition.

With an annual budget of £200m, now rising by 40 per cent to £280m, the Fund has delivered important benefits for more than 55,000 patients since it began in 2010.

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), has written to NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens recommending CDF’s panel of experts re-evaluate a number of drugs currently on the list, making evidence-based decisions about what will deliver greatest benefit to patients. NHS England has accepted and agreed these proposals. Copies of the letters are on the NHS England website.

Professor Clark, who is an oncologist, said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund has had a positive impact on cancer treatment for patients, with 2,000 people gaining access to the Fund every month. To ensure patients continue to have access to the best innovative treatments now and in the future, we must re-evaluate some of the drugs on the list. This is absolutely the right thing to do for patients, and I am pleased Simon Stevens has accepted my recommendations.”

Responding to Professor Clark’s proposal, Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive, said: “Since its inception, The Cancer Drugs Fund has successfully enabled the funding of new cancer medicines for tens of thousands of patients in England. We want to build on that success by expanding funding again this year to enable cancer patients to access innovative effective new treatments.

“Within this extra funding we want to ensure the drugs provide maximum benefits to patients and that the CDF incentivises responsible pricing by drug companies. We want to create a sustainable Cancer Drugs Fund that will ensure patients don’t miss out on innovative treatments that are on the horizon.”

Mr Stevens has also asked Professor Clark to work with NICE, patient groups and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) to develop options for ensuring greater alignment between CDF and NICE assessment processes. The CDF panel will also develop options for a new Evaluation through Commissioning scheme. This would allow the evaluation of the clinical effectiveness of promising new drugs, which are not currently supported by enough evidence to allow NICE to recommend they are made routinely available.

The CDF panel, comprising doctors, pharmacists and patient representatives, will review all available evidence for a number of drugs currently on the list. The panel’s decisions will be published in due course.