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Cancer fund wasted money - oncologists

Friday April 28th, 2017

Patients may have suffered "unnecessarily" from toxic side effects from the Cancer Drugs Fund introduced in 2010, it was claimed today.

The fund was intended to give doctors and patients rapid access to drugs that had not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

It was introduced after complaints about the slowness of the NICE approval process.

But two senior oncologists claim today that it was poor value for money.

Dr Ajay Aggarwal, academic clinical oncologist at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Professor Richard Sullivan, director of the Institute of Cancer Policy, King’s College London, UK, set out their findings in the Annals of Oncology.

They studied 29 drugs funded for 47 kinds of cancer through the Fund - and found that just 18 were backed by clinical trials showed a statistically significant survival benefit.

Some 26 of the 47 treatments had been rejected by NICE - and 24 were removed when the fund was reviewed in 2015, they report.

Dr Aggarwal said: “From 2010 when it started to 2016 when it closed, the Cancer Drugs Fund cost the UK taxpayer a total of £1.27 billion, the equivalent of one year’s total spend on all cancer drugs in the NHS.

"The majority of cancer medicines funded through the CDF were found wanting with respect to what patients, clinicians and NICE would count as clinically meaningful benefit. In addition, no data on the outcome of patients who used drugs accessed through the fund were collected.”

He added: “Eighteen of these reversals were based on evidence that existed prior to the introduction of the fund, suggesting wastage of resources but equally that drugs were given that were ineffective and probably resulted in unnecessary toxicities for patients."

Professor Sullivan added: “A ring-fenced drugs fund was created despite a lack of evidence that prioritising drug expenditure would improve outcomes for cancer patients over and above greater investment in the whole cancer management pathway, which includes screening, diagnostics, radiotherapy, surgery and palliative care."

Do patient access schemes for high cost cancer drugs deliver value to society? – Lessons from the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund Annals of Oncology 28 April 2017; doi:10.1093/annonc/mdx110

Tags: Cancer | NHS | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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