NHS may face lawsuits over expected decision to end access to some cancer drugs: report

A number of drugmakers could pursue legal action against the NHS over an expected decision that will end access to a number of cancer medicines through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), Financial Times reported Wednesday. In August, the NHS disclosed plans to evaluate listed products for efficacy and cost effectiveness. Following a review of 40 drugs included in the fund, the NHS is expected to announce next week that several of the medicines will no longer be available in an effort to rein in costs.

"We can no longer sustain a position where we are funding drugs that don't offer sufficient clinical benefit when drugs that will do more for patients are coming on stream," stated CDF chair Peter Clark. A number of drugmakers including Roche, whose breast cancer therapies Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) and Avastin (bevacizumab) could be affected by the decision, are in talks with the NHS to negotiate discounts to ensure that their products remain on the CDF.

According to Sanofi, the prostate cancer treatment Jevtana (cabazitaxel) and colorectal cancer therapy Zaltrap (aflibercept) are being pulled from the CDF. Tarja Stenvall, the company's general manager, remarked "we are hugely shocked and disappointed at this decision against Jevtana." Stenvall said "we believe NHS England's process for reviewing drugs currently listed on the Cancer Drugs Fund has been fundamentally flawed," adding "it was arbitrary, inflexible and relied on very questionable evaluation criteria that were not independently verified or endorsed."

Meanwhile, Eisai CEO Haruo Naito indicated that the company's breast cancer treatment Halaven (eribulin) is expected to be dropped by the NHS in an "unfair and arbitrary" decision. "There is no arbitration mechanism so the only option that will remain is to go to court," commented Naito. The Japanese drugmaker stated that although it was willing to offer a discount for the product to remain on the CDF, Halaven received a cost-benefit score below the level needed to have an opportunity to remain on the fund.

Naito remarked that he was "less positive" about the UK remaining a place to invest due to the "lack of clarity" in its approach to drugs. Meanwhile, Paul Catchpole, director of value and access at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, argued that the NHS was using a "flawed process" and called for reform of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

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