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Cancer drugs approved for routine use on the NHS


The start of a revised cancer drug approval procedure continued...

The remaining drugs are still in the processed of being appraised and no drug has received a final negative decision.

In reaction to today's announcement, Rose Gray, senior policy adviser at Cancer Research UK, says: "It's great that NICE has decided to make sorafenib available for some patients with advanced liver cancer, providing an important treatment option. This drug is one of several which were available on the Cancer Drugs Fund and have been reconsidered by NICE. We're pleased to see that so far a majority of those drugs have been made routinely available on the NHS, meaning more patients will be able to access new and innovative treatments."

She says Cancer Research UK will "continue to monitor how changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund are impacting patients to ensure they are able to access the best, evidence-based treatments."

Background to the old CDF

Despite the UK's strong links with cancer research and participation in clinical trials – and the NHS spending more than £1.2 billion a year on cancer drugs – the country has had a history of lagging behind the rest of Europe in providing new cancer drugs to NHS patients that can extend or improve their quality of life.

To address this imbalance, the CDF was created to provide access to new cancer drugs and drugs for rare types of cancers. A £50 million funding package was established in October 2010 to bridge a spending gap, and from April 2011 the CDF was provided with a total of £600 million that was spread over the following three years.

This cash was on top of money already being spent by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and was meant as only a temporary measure. It allowed NHS doctors and cancer specialists to apply to a local board for funding on behalf of their patients to obtain medications not approved by NICE for routine use on the NHS. These drugs may not have been approved because they still had to be evaluated, or because NICE found that they didn't work well enough or were not cost-effective. The CDF established a priority drug list that was to be periodically reviewed and also considered applications from individuals seeking other drugs not on their list, such as for treating rare cancers.

A chaotic six years

During the CDF's six-year lifetime, it cost the taxpayer £1.27 billion, the equivalent of a year's total spending on cancer drugs by the NHS. A study published in April 2017 found that only 38% of the drugs funded by the CDF were backed by clinical trials that showed a meaningful boost to patient survival, and when considered with other factors such as quality of life and toxic side effects of the drugs, the majority failed to show they had delivered meaningful value to NHS cancer patients.

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