Public Accounts Committee

Cancer Drugs Fund inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report published 5 February 2016. Government response published 23 March 2016.

Scope of the inquiry

The Government set up the Cancer Drugs Fund in 2010 to improve access to cancer drugs that would not otherwise be routinely available on the NHS. The Fund will run until March 2016 and has a total lifetime budget of £1.27 billion.

51% of the patients supported by the Fund between April 2013 and March 2015 accessed drugs that were appraised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) but not recommended for routine NHS commissioning because they did not meet its clinical and/or cost-effectiveness thresholds. The remaining patients accessed drugs that were in the process of being appraised, or had not been appraised, by NICE.

35% budget overspend

Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, NHS England overspent the allocated budget for the Fund by 35% and the cost of the Fund rose by £241 million. Despite the growing cost of the Fund, the NHS are not able to evaluate whether the Fund has had any impact on patient outcomes. In March 2015, it took action and stopped providing access to some drugs after a review of clinical effectiveness and cost. It is clear the Fund is not sustainable in its current form.

In Autumn 2015, NHS England will consult on proposals that the Fund should become a 'managed access' fund that pays for promising new drugs for a set period before NICE decides whether the drugs should be routinely available on the NHS, and no longer provide drugs that have not been recommended by NICE.

This inquiry challenges the Department for Health and NHS England on the lack the data available to assess the effectiveness of the Cancer Drugs Fund and whether it is the best way to care for patients, and how Department, NHS England, NICE and pharmaceutical companies can work together to ensure the Cancer Drugs Fund is sustainable.

Latest evidence

  • 30 Nov 2015 - Cancer Drugs Fund - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF343 KB) HC 583 | Published 15 Dec 2015

    Evidence given by Mark Hicken, Managing Director, Johnson and Johnson, Deb Lancaster, Director of Market Access, Roche, and Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK; Will Cavendish, Director General, Innovation, Growth and Technology, Department of Health, Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, and Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund, NHS England, and Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (at 4.30pm).

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