Cancer Drugs Fund 'should be managed better', say MPs

Drugs Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Cancer Drugs Fund has funded drugs for 80,000 people since it was set up in 2010

A special NHS fund for cancer medicines in England needs to be managed more effectively, says a committee of MPs.

In its report on the Cancer Drugs Fund, the Public Accounts Committee said it was unacceptable that the benefit to patients was still not clear.

The fund was set up in 2010 to improve access to cancer drugs that would not be routinely available on the NHS.

The fund, which is expected to have cost £1.27bn by April 2017, has helped more than 80,000 cancer patients.

Extending lives

Before any drugs can be given to patients on the NHS, they have to be recommended by the health watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which looks at how well they work and whether they are cost-effective.

But if drugs are not recommended or have yet to be appraised by NICE, the Cancer Drugs Fund can step in and choose to fund cancer treatment.

The fund was initially managed by strategic health authorities. But since April 2013, it has been managed by NHS England.

The MPs' committee says there is no evidence the fund is benefiting patients, extending lives or a good use of taxpayers' money.

'Complex decisions'

Money has had to be diverted from primary care to cover two years of overspends.

The £480m budget for the two years from 2013 to 2015 was overspent by £167m.

Its total budget, of £1.27bn, takes the fund to April, when the system will be overhauled.

The MPs recommend more thorough information is collected about how patients are benefiting from the drugs.

And they say tough decisions will need to be made about spending.

The fund has already had to drastically reduce the number of treatments it pays for, and the MPs' report questions whether it has done enough to fund medicines for rarer cancers.

A spokesman for NHS England said: "While we welcome the committee's support for a redesigned cancer drugs fund, we hope their explicit call for cuts to cancer drugs prices charged to the fund will be borne in mind as complex decisions on its future are taken in the next few months."

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