NHS England and NICE ask for views on the future direction of the Cancer Drugs Fund

A 12-week consultation on draft proposals outlining a new Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) has been launched.

The aim of the new CDF is to help patients receive new treatments with genuine promise, while real world evidence is collected for up to two years on how well they work in practice. This will then help determine whether the treatment should be accepted for routine use in the NHS in the future.

The original CDF was established in 2011 to fund cancer drugs in England that are not currently approved by NICE. It will run until April 2016. The CDF has helped more than 72,000 cancer patients in England access drugs not routinely funded, but it is now widely acknowledged that a new system is needed.

The proposal issued today for public consultation outlines a new system, fully integrated into the NICE appraisal process, where the CDF becomes a transitional fund – with clear criteria for entry and exit. This is in line with the recommendation of the recently published independent Cancer Taskforce report, which proposed that the new CDF should operate with NHS England and NICE.

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. For those drug companies willing to price their products affordably while sharing transparent information about ‘real world’ patient benefit, the new CDF will offer a new fast-track route to NHS funding.”

Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund, said: “The CDF 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.”

Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director, NHS England, said: “While it won’t avoid the ongoing need to make difficult judgements about how best to use the NHS’ funding for cancer care, the development of these proposals is a big step forward in ensuring a process which will get the most promising drugs to NHS patients at an affordable price as quickly as possible.”

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.”