The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer has urged MPs to extend the Cancer Drugs Fund until the end of the next parliament.
The charity has launched a new campaign, Demand a Fair Price, aimed at retaining the Cancer Drugs Fund. The fund was set up in 2011 to pay for cancer drugs that have not been approved for funding by NICE, because of their prohibitive expense.
From 2016, when the fund is due to end, the government plans to introduce a new way of setting prices for cancer drugs, which aims to make more drugs routinely available in the NHS. The fund is worth £200 million per year and only available to patients in England. The health services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not created a similar programme.
The DH estimates that 55,000 people have been given access to life extending drugs by the fund since 2011.
Concern has been raised by Breakthrough Breast Cancer and other organisations about the scheduled end of the fund in March 2016. Chris Askew, the chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: 'The Cancer Drugs Fund was only supposed to be a temporary solution and, while it should remain until a workable alternative is found, it is merely papering over the cracks of a system which is no longer fit for purpose. Innovative, effective drugs sitting on the shelf are of no use to anybody, least of all patients.
'Whilst there will be no quick fix solution to this problem, the pharmaceutical industry will need to get serious about its pricing and whoever forms the next government will need to get a grip on the problem and take action to resolve it.
'Until we have a sustainable, UK-wide system in place, the future availability of the treatments that regulators are being continually forced to reject will remain uncertain.'
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'It is vitally important that as many people as possible have access to these pioneering, life-enhancing drugs, and we need to continue to focus our efforts on increasing access to these innovative treatments, whilst ensuring that all patients continue to receive the effective drugs which are right for them.'