England's cancer drugs fund under strain as NICE rejects oncology medicines
England's cancer drugs fund may be under financial strain because of a lack of support for these specialist medicines from cost-effectiveness body NICE, according to the country's pharma trade body.
Paul Catchpole, director of value and access at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), made the comment as APM unearthed figures showing NICE did not recommend a single cancer drug in six binding assessments of oncology drugs last year.
The decisions mean that many cancer drugs are now going unfunded by the NHS' main reimbursement system or the cancer drugs fund (CDF) in England, which, following a reorganisation last year, only covers drugs contained on a central list.
APM reported last week that officials from the CDF rejected 11 drugs, and added just three drugs to the list in its last review published earlier this month.
There is no suggestion that NICE's decision making has been affected by the presence of the cancer drugs fund, which began in 2011, but Catchpole said that NICE's reluctance to approve oncology drugs in general was putting pressure on the CDF's pot of £200 million annually until 2016.
"That money was (at first) adequate to fund the medicines that were put through it. But as you keep adding drugs, you are going to get to a position where the fund is moving towards overspend," Catchpole told APM in a telephone interview.
Catchpole said NICE's decisions not to approve cancer drugs could be "partly responsible for the potential overspend."
Latest figures on the CDF, published on NHS England's website showed that by December 2013, almost £110 million of the CDF's funds had been spent, but showed the CDF was forecast to overspend by £40 million at year end.
There had been a total number of 13,910 applications to the fund, according to the figures.
The ABPI is waiting for NHS England to publish updated figures relating to the fund's finances following a question in parliament, Catchpole said.
It is also awaiting a NICE consultation on its value-based assessment, which is due to begin this month.
"We are waiting for a consultation in February. NICE's value based assessment is supposed to take into account burden of illness and wider societal impacts.
"When we have begun that consultation we will have a better idea about what the impact might be on cancer medicines - and every other medicine," said Catchpole, who called for a health technology assessment system that "works for all types of medicine."
Since APM's request for data on the number of cancer drugs recently recommended, NICE's 2013 figures have been updated and replaced with collated figures from March 2000 to January 31, 2014.