Cancer Drugs Fund Opposed by British Public, Study Suggests

A new study by the University of Bangor in North Wales has found that the British public do not support England’s Cancer Drugs Fund.

The study asked over 4,000 people across England, Wales and Scotland if the NHS should pay extra for cancer drugs in comparison to medication for equally serious conditions.  The majority of respondents (64%) said the NHS shouldn’t.

The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was set up in October 2010 and adds an additional £200 million each year into the NHS to pay for cancer drugs that are not currently recommended by NICE, or are being considered by the regulatory watchdog.  The Cancer Drug Fund is presently only available in England.

However, the study did show that medication was preferred if they met the conditions which the value of new medicines will be assessed by as part of the value-based pricing (VBP) scheme, due to be introduced from January 2014.

The VBP scheme is intended to replace the 2009 PPRS pricing scheme and will let the UK government set prices for medicines as they reach the market, and will set new definitions of value for medicines.  Many elements of the value-based pricing system have been opposed by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), who is currently in consultation with the government to create a diluted version of VBP.

Bangor University’s study revealed that treatments were preferred if they were for severe diseases, reduced problems for carers, or if they were for diseases where there were no other treatments – criteria that are set out in VBP.  Innovative medicines were only favoured if they provided extensive health benefits, the research found.

Professor Dyfrig Hughes, one of the authors of the study, noted that the government needs to justify continuing the CDF during these times of austerity to which the NHS is not immune.

“The funding of high cost cancer treatments is clearly an emotive issue, and it is for politicians to determine the parameters by which the NHS pays for them, however, there are equally distressing conditions affecting patients who are equally deserving, but they have no access to ring-fenced budgets. Singling out cancer seems to be unfair, but is something which will hopefully be addressed in the value-based pricing system, which has public support,” Hughes commented.

The Cancer Drugs Fund was always meant as a stop-gap prior to the introduction of value-based pricing, so the government is on strong ground to claim for VBP to be introduced in its present form and drop the Fund from 2014.  This may leave the pharmaceutical industry unhappy as they want to roughly keep the PPRS and just add some elements of VBP to it.


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