The new cancer drugs fund (CDF) will open for new treatments today (Friday), with four new cancer drugs made immediately available, potentially benefiting 4,500 patients and speeding up access by up to four months.
Since its introduction in April 2011, the CDF has helped nearly 100,000 people with cancer access treatments not routinely available on the NHS. However, it has been closed to new drugs since October 2015.
Updates to its operation were decided and announced earlier this year following a full public consultation and it will open to new treatments from today.
The updates to the CDF were in line with the recommendation of the independent Cancer Taskforce report, which called for urgent reform to put the CDF on a more sustainable footing.
The NICE appraisal process will now start much earlier for newly referred drugs, with the aim of publishing draft guidance before drugs receive their licence, and then final guidance to be issued within 90 days of that.
Patients can also benefit from new cancer drugs faster with the option of interim funding for those drugs that have received either a draft recommendation for routine commissioning or for use within the CDF.
New treatments being made available have recently been recommended by NICE, today’s announcements mean they will receive immediate interim funding from the CDF until final NICE guidance is published and it comes into force.
This means that some patients at this time will be able to access these treatments up to four months faster than under the previous system.
NHS England has been working closely with industry to reach agreements to make these new treatments immediately available to patients prior to final NICE guidance being issued. These treatments are:
- Ceritinib for the treatment of lung cancer
- Dabrafenib and trametinib as combination therapy for the treatment of melanoma
- Ipilimumab and nivolumab as combination treatment for the treatment of melanoma
- Trifluridine and tipiracil for the treatment of bowel cancer
Two existing CDF treatments have recently been recommended by NICE in draft guidance; they will also receive interim funding through the CDF until final NICE guidance is published.
- Bosutinib for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia
- Pemetrexed as maintenance treatment after induction pemetrexed-containing chemotherapy in lung cancer
Dr Jonathan Fielden, Director of Specialised Commissioning and Deputy National Medical Director at NHS England, said: “The new Cancer Drugs Fund is open for business, with four new treatments to be made immediately available to patients.
“Today marks the culmination of extensive work to ensure the new CDF will benefit the cancer patients, taxpayers and industry. The new approach developed by NHS England and NICE is faster and less rigid than before, meaning patients will be able to access promising new and innovative treatments much earlier.
“The fund has already helped nearly 100,000 people, and we want to make sure it continues to do so, which is why we will continue to work with industry to ensure taxpayers get best value for money and find innovative ways to achieve this best value for patients.”
A NICE spokesperson said: “We have already started looking at the drugs in the old CDF to see whether they can be recommended for routine funding. Today’s announcement signals that from now on all new cancer drugs will enter the NICE appraisal process before they are licensed. For products referred by Ministers to NICE after today, draft recommendations will be ready at the point of a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency and final guidance published within 90 days of them receiving marketing authorisation. This is faster than any other European country and will benefit NHS patients and companies alike.
“It’s now up to those companies to show that they recognise the challenges as well as the opportunities their new drugs present to patients and the NHS by showing the same flexibility on cost as they have in their recent negotiations with NHS England for drugs already in the CDF.”
Of the 41 treatments remaining from the old CDF, 39 have transferred to the new arrangements pending NICE appraisal/reconsideration or assessment by NHS England for use of off label cancer drugs. There are two treatments that have been given two-months notice of removal from the CDF.
For one of these, lenalidomide, the manufacturer (Celgene) has confirmed that at the end of the two-month notice period they are willing to provide the drug free of charge via their ‘Single named patient use and compassionate supply programme’ on a case by case basis. The second drug, temsirolimus for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma, is no longer used routinely.