Cancer Drugs Fund ‘lacked clinical and monetary value’

28 Apr 17

The government’s £1.27bn Cancer Drugs Fund failed to deliver “meaningful value to patients or society”, a study published in a medical journal has found.

The study, published in Annals of Oncology, concluded that the scheme, started in 2010 with an original annual budget of £50m, did not meet validated clinical benefits scales or cost-effectiveness criteria as defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Former prime minister David Cameron introduced the fund in 2010 to provide patients with access to cancer drugs not available through the NHS because the drugs had not been appraised, were in the process of being appraised, or had been appraised but not recommended by NICE.

Soon after it was established the costs of maintaining it rapidly increased, its budget jumped to £200m in 2013-14, £280m in 2014-15, and £340m in 2015-16.

When it was absorbed by NICE in 2016 it had cost the UK taxpayer a total of £1.27bn the equivalent of one year’s total spend on all cancer drugs in the NHS.

The report said there was no evidence that ring-fenced drug access funds, which prioritise drug expenditure, improved patient outcomes or provided better value for money than the existing appraisal system.

It states: “Ultimately, what is most important is that reimbursement decisions for all drugs, procedures and interventions within cancer care are made through appropriate health technology appraisal processes, which use the best available evidence to ensure decisions maximize value for cancer patients and society as a whole.”

Back in 2015 the National Audit Office had warned that spiraling drug costs were making the Cancer Drugs Fund unaffordable.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said MPs had raised serious concerns about the fund last year and called for urgent reforms.

Speaking today, she said: “If patients seeking support through schemes such as this are to get the best possible treatment, there must be confidence that public money is being spent on the right medication, at a fair price.

“As this new study further makes clear, the fund did not represent meaningful value.

“This must serve as a lesson to future governments seeking to commit public money to projects that, without effective management, are doomed to fail both patients and taxpayers in general.”

A spokesman for the Conservatives said: “The Cancer Drugs Fund is a policy that has given more than 100,000 people access to the latest drugs, meaning the chance of precious extra time with their families.”

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