Anger greets UK Cancer Drugs Fund's move to cut back on number of drugs

The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England plans to cut back on some of the drugs it funded as it cruised towards a £100-million spending deficit, BBC reported

The move has already angered many who ask how the NHS paid for innovative new drugs and led to calls for the scrapping of the fund in its entirety.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved drugs for widespread use in the NHS and was prepared to fund £30,000 for a course of drugs to extend life by a year (adjusted to take account of the quality of life achieved).

NICE would pay around double that for "end-of-life" drugs including those for cancer.

However, the latest cancer medicines came with hefty price tags, some costing £100,000 "per quality-adjusted life year" as per the technical jargon.

During his election campaign in 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a £200-million Cancer Drugs Fund to pay for expensive drugs.

The fund, which was supposed to expire last year, had been extended until 2016.

It had been great for eligible patients with around 55,000 using the scheme and some had gained months or even years of life through drugs which the NHS could never normally afford.

Meanwhile, The Independent reported that among the drugs which would no longer be available are Avastin, for advanced bowel cancer, breast cancer drugs Halaven, Tyverb and Afinitor and a number of treatments for blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma.

However, the breast cancer drug Kadcyla, which costs £90,000 per patient would still be available and three new drugs had also been added to the list of available treatments.

Patients already receiving drugs through the CDF would continue to do so, and any drug that was the only therapy available for a particular form of cancer would remain on the list, according to NHS England.

According to professor Peter Clark, a cancer specialist and chair of the CDF, the drugs removed were those which ''did not offer sufficient clinical benefit'' to justify the amounts spent on them.

He added, there were others that offered some benefit but were costly and he was pleased that a number of pharmaceutical firms worked with CDF to make prices more affordable, saving millions of pounds that could now be reinvested in other treatments.