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Charity ‘deeply concerned’ on CDF changes

Published on 13/11/14 at 10:46am
Breakthrough Breast Cancer's senior policy manager Caitlin Palframan image
Breakthrough Breast Cancer's senior policy manager Caitlin Palframan

A leading cancer charity has warned that a number of key drugs are at risk of being withdrawn from patients in 2015 following changes to the government’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

NHS England is to start evaluating the cost-effectiveness of medicines available through the CDF for the first time – but this has set off alarm bells for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

“We’re deeply concerned that several very effective breast cancer drugs appear on the list of drugs at risk of delisting due to their high price,” warns Caitlin Palframan, the charity’s senior policy manager.

Since March 2011 the CDF has injected an extra £200 million a year into the NHS to pay for new oncology products not recommended by NICE, or under appraisal by the watchdog, and NHS England says more than 55,000 patients have accessed treatment through the CDF.

However, in August the government announced it was having to add another £80 million to this pot each year until the Fund ends in April 2016 - because the current investment wasn’t enough to sustain the rising level of cancer drug costs, and the number of people with the disease accessing these treatments.

As a result, NHS England said it would need to assess the price of Fund medicines – and NICE has already said it should use its processes to do this.

The ‘at risk’ list announced today includes all six breast cancer drugs which are currently available – and the national CDF panel which is made up of oncologists, pharmacists and patient representatives, will meet next month to decide which products are to be chopped.

No one who is currently receiving drugs via the CDF will have their treatment stopped, whatever decision is made.

“The CDF was only ever intended to be a temporary solution, acting as a safety net for patients, but we are now facing a situation in which it may fail to perform that function for some people and more and more life-extending drugs could be snatched away from those that need them,” Palframan says.

Mindful of the upcoming general election, the charity wants all political parties to make manifesto commitments to finding a long-term, UK-wide solution to the issue of access to life-extending drugs by the end of the next parliament, in 2019-20.

It sees the pharma industry playing a key role in developing and embedding a new system of drug pricing and evaluation – and says that the status quo is not the way forward.

Despite the charity’s caveats and concerns, Palframan says: “It’s encouraging to see that changes are being made to improve the way that the CDF operates and make better use of the money available.”

Adam Hill

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