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.

Related documents

Access to molecular diagnostic tests and targeted medicines in England, September 2018

Health Technology Appraisal and access to cancer drugs in the UK, June 2018

Research brief: making outcomes-based payments a reality in the NHS, September 2017

Response to NICE consultation on updated Technology Appraisal Process Guide, February 2018

Letter to Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark from the Access to Cancer Medicines Coalition, March 2018

Drug licensing following the UK’s exit from the EU (December 2017)

NICE Increasing Capacity Consultation: Proposals for increasing capacity within the technology appraisal programme (November 2017)

Response to the NICE Proposals for changes to the arrangements for evaluating and funding drugs and other health technologies (March 2017)

NHS England and NICE CRUK consultation response (January 2017)

Response to NHS England and NICE consultation on Cancer Drugs Fund reform (February 2016)

Access to chemopreventative drugs (January 2016)

Response to the NHS England consultation on revisions to the Standard Operating Procedures for the Cancer Drugs Fund (October 2014)

Response to NICE review of the guide to the processes of Technology Appraisal (March 2014)

Response to NICE review of the methods for Technology Appraisal (June 2014)

Consultation on revisions to the statutory scheme for medicines pricing (July 2013)

Cancer patients’ views on government plans to introduce value-based pricing for medicines (August 2011)

Cancer Drugs Fund: a consultation (January 2011)

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