The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which puts money aside to pay for expensive medicines the NHS could not usually afford, has been labelled a ‘huge waste of money’ in a leader cancer journal.
Annals of Oncology – a journal specialising in cancer –found the fund paid £1.27 billion between 2010 and 2016, which could have paid for an entire year of mainstream cancer drugs for the NHS. This followed a government promise to pay for cancer drugs the NHS was not funding, but it was found only one in five of the treatments the fund financed had been of benefit.
It ran separately to NICE from its inception in 2010 and was set up as a response to public outcry when cancer drugs were rejected by NICE for not being cost effective. It has since been brought under the control of NICE, who now use the fund to pay for treatments it feels there is a case to finance.
The Annals of Oncology article concluded: ‘The CDF has not delivered meaningful value to patients or society. There is no empirical evidence to support a ‘drug only’ ring fenced cancer fund relative to concomitant investments in other cancer domains such as surgery and radiotherapy, or other non-cancer medicines.
‘Reimbursement decisions for all drugs and interventions within cancer care should be made through appropriate health technology appraisal processes.’
Dr Ajay Aggarwal and colleagues, who authored the piece, found only 18% of drugs financed by the fund met international criteria for clinically benefit. They concluded that a majority of patients may have suffered because of side effects the drugs caused, possibly including from loss, upset stomachs and swelling in joints to an increased risk of stroke.
Where there was some evidence of benefit, the average was an extra 3.2 months of survival.
Emlyn Samuel, of Cancer Research UK, told the BBC he agreed with the researchers that the fund ‘wasn’t fit for purpose’. He said the charity would be closely monitoring the impact of the new system administered by NICE.