Cancer drug fund ‘uncertain future’

Cancer drug fund future ‘uncertain’ as new scheme ‘ill-defined’

In England the cancer drug fund has helped greater than 25,000 patients

Many cancer patients could face an uncertain future over funding for his or her drugs, a parliamentary report says.

A government initiative increasing access to cancer drugs ends this year, however the system promised to switch it’s “nebulous” and ill-defined, say MPs.

The Department of Health insists sooner or later patients won’t fail to spot drugs that they currently receive.

But the report criticises the federal government for delays in explaining its new plans to value all drugs.

The new pricing system is determined to begin in 2014 and will affect many medicines utilized by the NHS, not only cancer drugs.

But a giant concern is that it replaces the temporary Cancer Drug Fund, which was introduced in 2011 to assist people access cancer drugs currently not approved by the health regulator the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The Health Select Committee says the inability of clarity at the way forward for the scheme puts cancer patients and doctors at midnight.

Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell said: “Where a person patient is on a process treatment it can be crucial there is no such thing as a cliff edge, that the patient has continuity of care.”

The Department of Health said it should “ensure arrangements are in place to offer protection to individual patients who’re receiving treatment with drugs funded by the Cancer Drugs Fund because the end of the fund approaches.”

The new drug pricing system because of the are available in is called value-based pricing.

This aims to present NHS patients better access to effective and innovative medicines.

It means the clinical worth of a drug could be taken under consideration when setting a value tag.

But the health select committee says the govt has done little to provide an explanation for how the system will work in practice, despite the plans being under discussion since 2010.

Mr Dorrell said: “What we were told during our inquiry indicates that the move to price-based pricing of medication should be a more modest change than have been suggested, but there’s a loss of clarity across the whole issue which has persisted too long.”

The committee wants the govt to crystallise its plans by March this year.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We’re engaging various groups including patients, the NHS and industry as we develop plans for value-based pricing.

“However, as negotiations between the dept of Health and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry are under way, it might be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy and knowledge, said: “The dept of Health should urgently publish details of its plans for value-based pricing – as recommended today by the health committee.

“It’s vital that the recent system works for cancer patients and we wish to see proposals that guarantee this.”