Around 55,000 Patients have benefited from the Cancer Drugs Fund, which was introduced by the Conservatives in 2011.
Four years ago the Cancer Drugs Fund was set up to give cancer patients access to expensive cancer drugs, many of which helped to prolong the life of these patients by a few months on average. The fund was initially allocated a yearly budget of £200m, although this was quickly spent due to the high price of these medicines. For example, Jevtana, which treats advanced level prostate cancer, costs around £22,000 per year to treat one patient. Between the expense of the drugs and the demand from cancer patients, it is estimated that the yearly cost is now much closer to £400m, double the budget in 2011.
In an effort to cut the costs of the Fund, 25 of these drugs have been reviewed. On Monday 12th January the NHS will release details on which of the drugs they will no longer be funding. Information recently came to light revealing that at least eight of these (including six that are used to treat breast cancer) will no longer be funded. Expectedly, a number of cancer charities have expressed outrage about the removal of these drugs by the NHS. Danni Manzi, head of policy at the charity Breast Cancer Care, expressed her concern at the recent news, but hopes for a positive outcome, “It would be soul destroying for many secondary breast cancer patients if they were unable to access these drugs simply due to cost… We hope that the announcement is a positive one – all cancer patients deserve to benefit from clinically effective treatments.”
The pharmaceutical companies selling these drugs have also expressed their disappointment and anger about the NHS’s decision and how it was made. Tarja Stenvall, general manager of Sanofi, who supply the NHS with Jevtana, said, “We believe NHS England’s process for reviewing drugs currently listed on the Cancer Drugs Fund has been fundamentally flawed.” Eisai company president Gary Hendler also expressed his company’s discontent. “To say that we are disappointed by this decision would be a gross understatement, we are outraged… We now call on the government to stop this arbitrary removal of drugs.” Eisai currently supply the NHS with breast cancer drug Halaven.
Some have also criticised the decision to introduce the Cancer Drugs Fund in the first place. Speaking to the BBC, Myeloma UK Chief Executive Eric Lowe called the fund a “policy anomaly”, but also said that he supports the decision to review costs as the “drug companies have behaved badly with their pricing”. Chairman of the Cancer Drugs Fund Peter Lowe said that it was about getting “maximum value for every pound we spend”, and suggested that the Fund is currently assessing new, more effective drugs that are coming onto the market, presumably referring to the 12 new therapies that are currently being assessed.