Our policy on cancer drugs

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Get in touch with our policy team to find out more information about our work and our policies.

020 3469 8360 

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Cancer drugs play a crucial role in many patients’ treatment, offering promising improvements in survival and quality of life. There have been exciting advances in drug development over recent years, however translating these into routine access for patients in the NHS has sometimes difficult.

Ensuring people with cancer have swift access to the most innovative treatments is critical if we are to see outcomes improve. Furthermore, Cancer Research UK is a major funder of drug development and has played a key role in many discoveries that have improved prospects for patients – so we want to make sure that this is translated into improved outcomes for people affected by cancer as quickly as possible.

The landscape of cancer drug development has changed markedly over recent years: there is an increased focus on targeted treatments and immunotherapies, with targeted therapies making up 90% of the late phase pipeline in 2016. While exciting, these developments pose challenges to the standard processes for approving new cancer drugs are not always optimal for the newest types of treatment.

The UK currently participates in a centralised process for drug licensing, managed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Our priority as the UK exits the EU is to safeguard the interests of patients and research. Regulatory alignment with the EMA with regard to drugs licensing and clinical trials is critical to achieving this.

We support recent reforms to the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, making it a managed access fund that provides earlier access to drugs while allowing more evidence to be collected on their clinical effectiveness. We would like to see this model of using real-world evidence used more frequently, so that decisions about approvals and pricing are based on a drug’s true value in the NHS.

In the longer term, we would like to see real-world evidence used to inform pricing decisions, through flexible pricing mechanisms such as outcomes-based pricing. High-quality, routinely-collected data will be central to the success of these initiatives.

We continue to work with decision-makers and health bodies across the UK to ensure patient access to new medicines stays top of the policy agenda.

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