NHS stops funding for 25 approved indications of drugs through Cancer Drugs Fund

The NHS announced Monday that funding has been withdrawn for 25 approved indications of cancer therapies through the UK's Cancer Drugs Fund after completing a review of the system. The restrictions, which come into force March 12, include treatments such as Eisai's breast cancer therapy Halaven (eribulin) and Sanofi's prostate drug Jevtana (cabazitaxel) and colorectal cancer treatment Zaltrap (aflibercept). "We have been through a robust, evidence-based process to ensure the drugs available offer the best clinical benefit, getting the most for patients from every pound," stated CDF chair Peter Clark.

The NHS noted that despite the restrictions, the budget for the CDF will grow from 280 million pounds ($425 million) in the current term to an estimated 340 million pounds ($517 million) from April 2015. The agency indicated that the CDF budget would have totalled about 420 million pounds ($638 million) next year without the current action. The NHS said that following the review, 59 of the 84 "most effective" currently approved indications of drugs will rollover into the CDF next year.

The NHS said that no patient who is currently receiving a drug through the CDF will lose access to the treatment, even if it is no longer covered by the fund. Additionally, patients may also be eligible to receive an excluded therapy in another line of therapy or receive an alternative CDF-approved drug. Moreover, clinicians will be allowed to apply for their patients to receive excluded products through the fund on an exceptional basis.

"These are difficult decisions, but if we don't prioritise the drugs that offer the best value, many people could miss out on promising, more effective treatments that are in the pipeline," Clark remarked. The NHS commented that the changes will allow the agency to provide funding for the first time for Amgen's Vectibix (panitumumab) for colorectal cancer treatment, Pharmacyclics' Imbruvica (ibrutinib) for mantle cell cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Commenting on the news, Eisai said that it was "outraged" by the decision to exclude Halaven from CDF coverage. Last week, a report suggested that a number of drugmakers could consider legal action against the NHS for its decision to terminate access to their products.

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