3 in 4 Cancer Drugs Fund treatments now available on NHS

In collaboration with the Press Association

Three quarters of the drugs previously only accessible to patients via the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) are now approved on the NHS.

The liver cancer drug sorafenib (Nexavar) has become the latest to be made available to some patients with advanced disease on the NHS in England following draft recommendations.

18 out of 24 treatments on the fund have now been reviewed and approved.

Rose Gray, senior policy adviser at Cancer Research UK, said that the approvals made so far will mean that more patients will be able to access new and innovative treatments.  

Set up by the Government in 2010, the CDF was initially seen as a short-term solution to help pay for treatments deemed not cost effective for routine use on the NHS. But the cost of the drugs quickly saw the fund exceed its initial £200 million budget. 

Following a review of the process in 2016, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) was asked to reassess cancer drugs that had only been available to patients through the fund. 

6 drugs are still in the process of being appraised. The new CDF allows drugs to be approved for a 2-year period of gathering more evidence in order to prove effectiveness.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, explains that the drugs watchdog was flexible in cases where drugs show promise. This allows access to drugs while further clinical data is generated through the new CDF.

Gray added: “We will continue to monitor how changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund are impacting patients to ensure they are able to access the best, evidence-based treatments.”

The latest drug to be approved, sorafenib, is recommended for treatment of a type of advanced liver cancer, where it is estimated to extend the life of some patients by an average of 3 months. 

There are around 3,000 new cases of liver cancer diagnosed in England each year, and over 2,400 deaths. 

Gray said that the approval of sorafenib will provide an important treatment option. 

The manufacturer, Bayer, reached a confidential agreement with NHS England to provide the drug at a discounted price.