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Charity says patients worried about Cancer Drugs Fund's future

Beating Bowel Cancer demands clarity from DH about future for access to cancer medicines in England

Beating Bowel Cancer logo

A lack of guidance on the future of England's Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) is causing undue worry for cancer patients, according to Beating Bowel Cancer.

In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the charity's CEO Mark Flannagan said that as many as 6,500 new bowel cancer patients a year don't know if they will have access to drugs provided by the Fund once it closes in 2014.

The CDF was set up in 2011 as a temporary measure to provide financing for drugs not available for mainstream NHS use because they had not been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

In its first year, nearly 11,000 requests were made for drugs, with the two most popular ones being Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab) and Merck KGaA's Erbitux (cetuximab) – both of which have been turned down by NICE for use in the treatment of colorectal (bowel) cancer.

However, the CDF will cease to exist in January 2014, when the Department of Health (DH) plans to introduce the new value-based pricing (VBP) system of drug reimbursement to replace the current Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS).

There has been little information on how VBP will work in practice though, and Beating Bowel Cancer has joined pharma company Roche and a House of Commons Health Committee in calling for guidance about what will happen to drugs currently funded by the CDF.

In his letter to Hunt, Flannagan said: “The suggestion that a small number of existing drugs will be appraised under value-based pricing will not allay the real fear that patients with bowel cancer may end up missing out on these vital treatments."

Referencing Prime Minister David Cameron's comments before the last UK general election that all cancer patients should have access to a drug if their doctor thinks it appropriate, Flannagan said: “We would like assurance that the Government will keep the promise it made to all cancer patients before the last election.

“Without such assurance, we are worried that we will return to a time when cancer patients have to beg for treatment or be forced to fund it themselves.”

Hunt has yet to respond publicly to the letter himself, although Health Minister Lord Howe said arrangements are in place to protect patients receiving treatments via the Cancer Drugs Fund.

He said: "For the longer term, we are considering ways in which patients can continue to benefit from drugs provided through the Fund."

"We are taking action through our Cancer Strategy to save an extra 5,000 lives a year by 2014 by supporting early diagnosis and improving access to high quality tests and treatment.”

Speaking to PMLiVE earlier this week, NICE's deputy chief executive and director of health and social care, Professor Gillian Leng, said the body was equally uncertain about the future of the Fund, but added that responsibility for it was likely to fall to the specialist commissioning resources of NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board).

5th April 2013

From: Sales, Healthcare

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