1 October 2013

Government to Extend Cancer Drugs Fund Until 2016

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced an extension to the Cancer Drugs Fund for two years. Since 2011, the fund has ring-fenced £200 million a year of the NHS budget for cancer treatments which may not yet have been assessed by NICE or which have been found not to be cost or clinically effective enough for wider use on the NHS. The Government's extension will make the fund available until 2016.

In response to the Prime Minister's announcement, Sir Andrew Dillon, the Chief Executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, said: “NICE guidance on new cancer drugs provides the basis for informed decisions to be taken by clinicians and patients, and by making clear when drugs work well in routine practice. It helps the NHS allocate the money it has available fairly and efficiently.”

In the last few weeks, NICE has recommended a new test that can help to predict better the risk of breast cancer spreading and reduce the amount of needless chemotherapy. A second test for helping to spare women with breast cancer additional surgery was also recommended. In June, NICE recommended that drugs should be made available to thousands of people at high risk of breast cancer. Andrew Dillon went on to explain: “NHS organisations have always been able to consider exceptions to our guidance. The Cancer Drugs Fund provides a national resource to meet the cost of those exceptions.”

Because of the amount of evidence that needs to be examined, it can take six months for NICE to carry out a preliminary assessment of the clinical and cost effectiveness of a new drug or other technology. This means there can be benefits to bringing forward a new drug before NICE has assessed it or when there is an exceptional case, as Andrew Dillon explained: “NICE cancer drugs guidance helps to make sure that the Cancer Drugs Fund is used only where exceptions to our recommendations on routine practice really will work in the interests of patients.”

80% of all of NICE's technology appraisal recommendations are positive.

In order for patients to receive treatment under the drugs fund, cancer specialists need to apply to the fund. More information is available through NHS England.