Cancer drugs fund cuts 23 treatments

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The Cancer Drugs Fund in England will no longer pay for 16 medicines, used in 23 separate cancer treatments.

It has now more than halved the number of treatments it covers since the beginning of the year after being repeatedly overspent.

The latest drugs being axed include those for breast, pancreatic and blood cancers.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation said the news was a "hammer blow" and estimated that 5,500 patients would miss out.

All the drugs on the Cancer Drugs Fund list have been rejected by the NHS as a whole because they do not provide enough benefit for the amount they cost.

The fund was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron to provide access to such medication.

However, NHS England announced that the fund was due to go £100m over budget in 2014-15.

At the beginning of 2015, there were 84 funded therapies, but after a series of culls there are now just 41.

In the latest reduction, 23 course of treatment have been removed.

Prof Peter Clark, the chairman of the Fund, said: "There is no escaping the fact that we face a difficult set of choices, but it is our duty to ensure we get maximum value from every penny available on behalf of patients.

"We must ensure we invest in those treatments that offer the most benefit, based on rigorous evidence-based clinical analysis and an assessment of the cost of those treatments."

NHS England said current projections suggest that without de-listing, spend on the fund would rise to around £410m this year.

The drugs will be formally removed on 4 November and the announcement will not affect patients currently receiving treatment through the fund.

Patients affected

  • Blood cancer - 1,759 patients
  • Breast cancer - 986 patients
  • Bowel cancer - 845 patients
  • Prostate cancer - 601 patients
  • Upper gastrointestinal cancer - 549 patients
  • Urological cancer - 376 patients
  • Brain and central nervous system - 229 patients
  • Gynaecological cancer - 188 patients

Source: Rarer Cancers Foundation figures bases on usage figures for 2014-15

Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation which is supported by pharmaceutical companies, said: "These cuts will be a hammer blow to many thousands of desperately ill cancer patients and their families.

"Ministers told us they wanted to work with charities to develop a solution, but now the NHS has announced big reductions in access to existing life-extending treatment, with no action to make available the newest game-changing drugs."

The charity Breast Cancer Now said it was a "dreadful day" for patients.

Its chief executive, Baroness Delyth Morgan, said there had been a lack of leadership: "Kadcyla is a one-of-a-kind drug proven to extend life, and the fact is that because government, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry have failed to agree realistic prices for new drugs, some women will die sooner."

The chief executive of Myeloma UK, Eric Low, said: "The government has been far too slow to see and address the critical flaws of the Fund.

"It has let things develop to the stage where effective and life-prolonging drugs are being brutally delisted from the Fund to cut costs."

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