The UK government has confirmed its special funding arrangement for certain cancer drugs will continue for an extra two years until March 2016.
The £600m Cancer Drugs Fund was set up in 2011 as a temporary arrangement to provide patients in England with access to drugs not backed by NICE but which their clinicians want them to have.
The Fund was supposed to end in 2014, having been rendered obsolete by the introduction of value-based pricing (VBP), but that plan has attracted criticism from pharma companies and patient groups.
In recent weeks industry pressure on the Fund’s future has increased, with a joint survey from Sanofi, Novartis and Roche highlighting public attitudes to medicines access and a direct call from Roche to keep the Fund until VBP can prove itself.
To date the Fund has allowed some 30,000 patients access to treatments they would have otherwise been denied. It received nearly 11,000 requests in its first year alone – with Roche’s Avastin (bevacizumab) and Merck KGaA’s Erbitux (cetuximab) proving the most popular.
The new two-year extension to the Fund will be backed by an extra £400m investment from the Government, which said the move would allow thousands more cancer patients in England to receive life-extending drugs.
A champion of the Fund and patient advocate is Beating Bowel Cancer’s chief executive Mark Flannagan, who has been campaigning for clarity over the Fund’s future.
Commenting on its two-year extension, he said: “This announcement means that the NHS will continue to provide cancer patients with drugs that will help them to live a longer and better life. The introduction of the fund was a milestone in helping cancer patients to benefit from the best treatments in the world.
“Many more bowel cancer patients will now be given hope and peace of mind that these treatments will continue to be made available to them if recommended by their doctor.”
Decisions about which drugs can be included in the Fund will continue to be taken by NHS England.
Meanwhile, in a reference to the introduction of VBP, the government said it is “working to bring about changes to the way the NHS pay for new drugs so that patients get better access to effective medicines and the NHS gets better value for money”.
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