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£600m confirmed for three year Cancer Drugs Fund

Published on 27/10/10 at 10:48am

The NHS will get the extra money it was promised to improve patient access to cancer medicines not backed by NICE under the Cancer Drugs Fund.

There had been concern the Fund would be cut under last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, but the government has now guaranteed it will provide £200 million a year until 2014.

The Fund, which starts from April, will help pay for new cancer drugs that have not been approved by NICE for use on the NHS in England.

Currently patients who want a cancer drug that has not been approved by the cost-effectiveness body have to apply to their primary care trust to plead ‘extraordinary circumstances’, known as an individual funding request (IFR).

If this is denied patients have few options other to try and fund the drug privately.

Each region of England now has a ‘clinically-led’ committee where doctors – taking advice from patients’ cancer specialists - are in charge of deciding how the new funding will be spent, and this sits after the IFR in order to help these patients.

The committees are already overseeing the interim Cancer Drugs Fund of £50 million that was approved earlier this month and they will receive the extra annual £200 million funding in ‘order of need’, a Department of Health spokeswoman said

The Cancer Drugs Fund will itself be replaced in 2014 when the government introduces its own value-based pricing system, one aim of which is to aim for a greater uptake of new cancer drugs.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “This £200 million a year funding over three years for cancer drugs is a crucial step forward in addressing the disparity in patients' access to cancer drugs in England compared to other countries.

“Our longer-term plans will change the way we pay for drugs so that patients get better access to drugs and the NHS and the taxpayer get better value for money.”

Lansley added that this Fund was an example of how the government is putting “clinical experts in charge of making decisions”, a forerunner to GP-led commissioning, set to come into place by 2013.

Cancer Drugs Fund consultation

The government will hold a consultation on the Cancer Drugs Fund to seek opinions from healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the public about the way it will be run.

The areas it will look at include:

• Ways to support patients and their clinicians in making the best treatment decisions

• The need for guidance to support the operation of the process

• What the precise scope of the fund should be

The consultation will run until 19 January 2011.

Ben Adams

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