Cancer patients in the UK could miss out on drugs available in other countries under new arrangements for deciding which medicines the NHS will pay for, the charity Breast Cancer Now has warned.
The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which was closed in March after it overspent, was a pot of money to pay for new medicines not considered cost-effective or not yet assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Under the new system, access to the fund will be effectively be controlled by NICE, Breast Cancer Now said.
NHS England has said the fund “had come under unsustainable financial pressure with calls for urgent reform coming from the independent Cancer Taskforce, the National Audit Office and from parliament’s public accounts committee”.
The new system will ensure all cancer drugs in the process of getting a licence are evaluated by NICE and assessed for cost-effectiveness. Those that are thought to be potentially useful but for which there is not enough evidence could be temporarily funded but evidence of how well they are working must be collected.
“The new CDF will do next to nothing to solve the wider problems that are preventing NHS patients from accessing the best cancer drugs,” said Baroness Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now.
“The CDF was set up because NICE’s methodology was not working for cancer drugs and this new process offers little change. With the fund’s drug assessment now being handed back to Nice, we worry that patients in England will miss out on effective drugs [that are] available in other countries.”