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Vital Cancer Drugs Cancelled by The NHS

Sadly, it has appeared again in the media that thousands of cancer patients are likely to be denied life extending treatment as 16 common drugs for breast, bowel, prostate, pancreatic, cervical and blood cancer will no longer be funded by the NHS following cuts to the Cancer Drugs Fund. This more than halves the number of treatments covered by the fund since the beginning of 2015, as reported by the BBC on 4 September 2015. The cutbacks arise following talks with manufacturers on price and are the second round of cuts this year.

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It comes just four years after the Prime Minister said that patients should no longer be denied drugs on cost grounds and launched the Cancer Drugs Fund in 2011. Since its creation the fund has been reported to have continuously gone over its initial £200 million annual budget, although it is suggested to have benefitted more than 50,000 cancer patients. The Government allegedly promised extra money in January 2015 to increase the worth of the fund to £340 million a year. NHS England announced that the fund was due to go £100 million over its budget, to around £410 million in 2014 – 2015.

Drugs to be Removed on 4 November 2015

The BBC stated around 5,500 patients would miss out after the drugs are formally removed on 4 November 2015. The BBC also reports that Professor Peter Clark, the chairman of the Fund, said: "There is no escaping the fact that we face a difficult set of choices, but it is our duty to ensure we get maximum value from every penny available on behalf of patients. We must ensure we invest in those treatments that offer the most benefit, based on rigorous evidence-based clinical analysis and an assessment of the cost of those treatments."

A health news report published by the Telegraph on 4 September 2015 states that charities have rendered the plans a dreadful step backwards in the NHS which will deny thousands of cancer patients life-extending drugs.

The Telegraph reports that the drugs which will no longer be funded include Kadcyla for advanced breast cancer (which is currently prescribed to around 800 women a year and has been shown to extend life by an average of six months), Avastin for many bowel and breast cancer patients, Revlimid and Imnovid for multiple myeloma, and Abraxane, the first treatment for pancreatic cancer in 17 years.

A Huge Backward Step

As things stand the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decides whether medicines are cost-effective and can be funded on the NHS. If it decides against this then the drugs can be funded under the Cancer Drugs Fund. Apparently the proposals outlined are not completely final and pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to cut prices to ensure drugs provided are of satisfactory value for money. It is also reported NHS England and NICE will shortly be consulting on a proposed new system for commissioning cancer drugs.

However, a concern has to be that the drugs currently provided by the Cancer Drugs Fund may be removed before a new system is implemented, bearing in mind the approaching date for their removal of 4 November 2015 and whilst it is appreciated that the NHS has financial restraints it does pose the question whether the removal of proved effective cancer drugs represents a huge backwards step in patient care and wellbeing.