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Removal of drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund list

Where a cancer drug is not routinely funded by the NHS in England, patients may be able to access the drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The UK Government established the CDF in 2010 to help improve access to cancer drugs in England and its budget has been increased a number of times to meet demand; the CDF budget for 2015-16 is £340 million.

In light of the rapid growth of the cost of the CDF, NHS England has carried out two reviews of clinical effectiveness and cost that have led to the removal of some drugs from the national CDF list of funded treatment.

NHS England completed the latest review of the effectiveness of the treatments it funds on 4 September 2015, leading to the removal of funding for 23 separate cancer treatments on 4 November 2015.[1] Examples of treatments removed from the CDF list in November are Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel), for the treatment of pancreatic cancer[2], and Imnovid (pomalidomide) for the treatment of relapsed myeloma.[3]

The Chair of the CDF explained that despite previous efforts to contain costs it was projected the Fund would face an over-spend of £70m unless it took further action. NHS England state the review was carried out to ensure that the CDF’s budget is spent on the best available drugs, at appropriate costs.[4]

NHS England has said that for those drugs recommended for removal from the CDF the manufacturer will have an opportunity to reduce their costs, and a number of negotiations have taken place.[5] Patients who were already receiving a drug when it was removed from the CDF will continue to be treated with that drug until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to discontinue treatment.  In addition, drugs removed from the CDF will continue to be available via Individual Funding Requests if the individual patient meets clinical exceptionality criteria.[6]

On 19 November 2015 NHS England and NICE launched a 12-week consultation on proposals for a new CDF operating model, to be introduced from April 2016 .

[1]               Cancer drugs fund cuts 23 treatments, BBC News website, 4 September 2015

[2]               For further information see Petition, Health: Chemotherapy drug Abraxane, 8 September 2015 c9-10P

[3]               NHS England, September 2015 decision summaries.

[4]               Further information on the CDF review of the effectiveness of treatments is available here.

[5]               See for example: Guardian, 17 November 2015

[6]               NHS England provide guidance on this process.

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