A total of 25 clinical indications will be removed from the government’s cancer drugs fund (CDF) list, NHS England announced on 12 January 2015, prompting angry reactions from patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry.
The removal of drugs that are eligible for funding through the CDF, including treatments for breast, lung, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, follows an expert panel’s review of the current 84 approved indications.
The changes, which come into force on 12 March 2015, do not apply to patients already receiving treatment via the fund, which was set up in 2010 to provide patients access to a number of cancer drugs not routinely available on the NHS.
NHS England says the review, expected to save around £80m, was triggered because the fund had become unaffordable. It took into account the drug’s clinical benefit, survival and quality of life of patients, drug toxicity and safety, level of unmet need and the average cost per patient.
Two new drugs have been added to the list of those that will be funded in future — panitumumab for bowel cancer, ibrutinib for mantle cell lymphoma and ibrutinib for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
The revised list of approved indications and drugs coincided with the announcement that the fund’s budget will increase from £280m to an estimated £340m from April 2015.
The changes to the CDF list have been condemned by the pharmaceutical industry.
“NHS England’s decision to delist 16 cancer medicines with 25 separate clinical uses is a significant blow to the health and wellbeing of future NHS patients,” says Stephen Whitehead chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). “While we are pleased that treatment for existing patients will be protected as a result of this decision, and that some new medicines will be included in the CDF, it does not detract from our longstanding belief that the CDF and this re-evaluation process was fundamentally flawed.”
Cancer charities have also reacted angrily to the announcement.
“The cancer drugs fund is falling apart when there is still no long-term solution in place,” says Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Care. “The priority now must be to urgently find a sustainable system that works.”