MPs Demand Cancer Drugs Fund Improvements

A committee of MPs has concluded that the Cancer Drugs Fund must be run and managed more efficiently.

The Public Accounts Committee concluded that the fund designed to provide cancer medicines to NHS patients had been ineffective since it was set up in 2010.

Perhaps the most damning conclusion made by the report is that the benefit of the fund to patients is not clear at all.

The aim of the fund, which has just celebrated its fifth birthday, was to ensure that access to cancer drugs would be routine or patients across the UK.

Some of the medicines that were purported to be available via the Cancer Drugs Fund would otherwise not be available on the NHS.

Figures do indicate that the fund has not been a complete failure.

The fund, which is expected to have cost £1.27 billion by April 2017, has helped more than 80,000 cancer patients.

But, conversely, the evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee indicates that the amount of money that the Cancer Drugs Fund is paying for medication can be excessive.

And the legislative and bureaucratic process involved with the Cancer Drugs Fund could be described as laborious.

Before any drugs can be given to patients on the NHS, they have to be recommended by the health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which looks at how well they work and whether they are cost-effective.

But if drugs are not recommended or have yet to be appraised by NICE, the Cancer Drugs Fund can step in and choose to fund cancer treatment.

Despite high hopes for this fund when it was initially set up, the committee of MPs unfortunately concluded that there is limited evidence that the fund is having any significant benefit for cancer patients.

It has not even been satisfactorily proven that the Cancer Drugs Fund is even extending cancer patients’ lives.

With money having been diverted from primary care, it is clear that the Cancer Drugs Fund faces major logistical and fiscal issues.

The £480 million budget set aside for the two years from 2013 to 2015 was exceeded by £167 million.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for NHS England acknowledged that there are serious underlying issues with the Cancer Drugs Fund, and that these must be addressed in the immediate future.

“While we welcome the committee’s support for a redesigned Cancer Drugs Fund, we hope their explicit call for cuts to cancer drugs prices charged to the fund will be borne in mind as complex decisions on its future are taken in the next few months.”


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