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Companies braced for new round of cancer cuts

Published on 04/09/15 at 10:12am
NHS sign
NHS England is cutting treatments from the over-budget Cancer Drugs Fund

Several treatments that extend the lives of people with cancer are expected to be removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund from November 1st in the latest round of NHS cuts to hit patients.

As many as 10,000 patients are expected to be affected by the decision to remove treatments from the list NHS England funds for end of life treatments, through the controversial scheme.

The long-term future of the Cancer Drugs Fund is unclear. NHS England has proposed that from April 2016 it is converted into a ‘managed access fund’ and its control handed over to NICE. In future NICE would oversee the evaluation of Cancer Drugs Fund treatments and collect real-world evidence about their efficacy through the NHS.

In January, NHS England removed 25 cancer treatments from the CDF, but later agreed to concessions after pressure from pharma companies and patient groups.  In a further round of reviews in May, Bayer was the only company to emerge successfully from the appeals process, which meant Stivarga (regorafenib) remained in the Fund for the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumours.

The latest cuts come as NHS England seeks to curb the Fund’s ‘escalating overspend’. Its budget has spiralled from £200 million when it was established in 2010, to £340m in 2015/16.

Swiss firm Roche – which has been criticised for the £90,000 cost of treatment with breast cancer drug Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) – went on the offensive to call for reform to find a ‘sustainable, pragmatic and flexible’ ahead of the publication of the revised list.

Roche’s medical director Daniel Thurley says: “The decision means that up to 10,000 patients will no longer have access to new medicines come November. The CDF was never intended to be a long-term solution for how we provide medicines to patients in England. We’re calling for reform so that we can find a sustainable, pragmatic and flexible way to provide access to these medicines.

While Roche director Deborah Lancaster says: “It’s important to use our expertise, knowledge and innovation to help fix the system to make sure the innovative medicines we are bringing forward in the coming years can actually get to patients.

“This is not the end of the road. We’re continuing to talk to NHS England. We’re trying to come up with a mutually acceptable solution which is going to mean that patients continue to access our drugs. It’s really important that we don’t walk away from our patients.”

Lilian Anekwe

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