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New 'flexibility' gets two drugs on Cancer Drugs Fund early

‘Greater flexibility’ has seen two new drugs be made available on the Cancer Drugs Fund following questions about its effectiveness

‘Greater flexibility’ has seen two new drugs be made available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) following questions about its effectiveness.

Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for lung cancer and olaratumab (Lartruvo) for sarcoma are now available on the CDF while more data is gathered on their value. The new system implemented by NICE in April 2016 means drugs can be approved when early studies indicate they are effective.

It was revealed by the Annals of Oncology – a cancer-specialising journal – that the CDF paid £1.27 billion from 2010 to 2016 when the money could have been spent on mainstream cancer drugs for the NHS. This led the journal to brand the CDF a ‘waste of money’, a claim concurred by Cancer Research UK.

READ MORE: Cancer Drugs Fund 'a huge waste of money'

Emlyn Samuel of Cancer Research UK said he hoped the new NICE system changes would improve the CDF’s effectiveness. As part of the changes, NICE is also making recommendations earlier in the drug pipeline meaning patients in England may benefit sooner.

NICE director of health technology evaluation Professor Carole Longson said: ‘With the changes that were made to the CDF, we are issuing guidance earlier than any other country in Europe. With companies working closely with us and NHS England we will continue to deliver on our promise to give people fast access to the most effective cancer drugs.’

The availability of pembrolizumab and olaratumab will see further data collected while the drugs are funded at a discounted price. All prices are confidential.

Both drugs will remain on the CDF until they are reviewed again by NICE.

Pembrolizumab is used to treat advanced lung cancer in people who have specific protein and genetic markers. It was recently recommended by NICE as a second line option for some patients with lung cancer. This new guidance is for those with untreated lung cancer which could see around 1,400 new patients benefiting from this treatment.

Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects tissues of the body that surround body organs. People with advanced sarcoma usually live for 12 to 16 months after standard treatment. In ongoing trials, olaratumab has been shown to give people an extra 11.8 months of life which is unprecedented. Around 450 patients will be eligible for olaratumab.