Cancer Drugs Fund needs better management, say MPs

NHS England has been criticised for having not tracked the benefits to patients of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) and the money spent on it.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has today released its conclusions on the CDF, saying it has “not been managed effectively” and that the Government’s inability to properly assess the benefit to cancer patients as “unacceptable”.

NHS England has been planning measure the clinical benefits patients received from drugs on the CDF– but problems with collecting data from the NHS has meant this hasn’t happened.

Since being established in 2010, some 80,000 people have received treatments through the CDF that have been rejected by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the grounds of cost effectiveness.

However, spending on the CDF has risen rapidly in the last few years, increasing from £200 million in 2013-2014 to £340 million as of April 2015. Even with this increase in budget, NHS England has overspent its available funds each year, totalling a £167 million overspend.

This has led to two rounds of drug ‘de-listings’, and now all stakeholders agree that the CDF is unsustainable in its current form. Following consultation, the CDF will be relaunched in April as a ‘managed access fund’ and will be more closely linked to the work of NICE.

The PAC says the Department of Health and NHS England “needed to assess the impact of the Fund on patient outcomes, such as extending patients’ lives, or to demonstrate whether this is a good use of taxpayers’ money”.


The idea of the CDF has been controversial ever since it was launched in 2010, with many saying it undermined NICE’s authority, and didn’t address

The committee insisted that NHS England will need to “be prepared to take tough decisions” to avoid overspending as well as highlighting the need for them to “set out how it ensures that it pays a fair price for drugs”.

In response, an NHS England spokesperson told the BBC: “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.”

Read the Public Accounts Committee report here

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