Number of cancer drugs being rejected by health watchdog rises 50% in two yearsNICE is saying no to more treatments than it did before Cancer Drugs Fund was introduced. campaigners sayFund set up by Government was intended to supplement the number of drugs availableDrugs turned down last year include treatments for advanced breast cancer and prostate cancer
23:41 GMT, 28 August 2012
The number of cancer drugs being rejected by the health watchdog has risen by 50 per cent in two years, a report has revealed.
Campaigners say NICE is saying no to more treatments since the Government introduced its flagship Cancer Drugs Fund, which was meant to supplement the number available.
Since 2010, ministers have set aside 200million a year for the fund to pay for cancer drugs which have not been approved by NICE for use on the NHS but which doctors think may help patients.
Turned down: Drugs rejected by the health watchdog last year include treatments for advanced breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer
But a leading charity is concerned that since the scheme was set up, the watchdog knows it can afford not to make some drugs available because patients may be able to get them anyway through the fund.
A report by the Rarer Cancers Foundation shows that in 2011/12 11 new treatments were rejected by NICE – many because they were not ‘cost-effective’ – out of 19 put forward.
This represents nearly 60 per cent of the total. But in 2009/10 only seven new drugs were turned down out of 15 put forward, just 46 per cent of the total.
This is despite the fact that the cost of the new drugs has decreased, which should mean NICE is more inclined to agree they should be paid for by the NHS.
Concerned: Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation, said there were widespread variations in the treatments available
On average, the cost of cancer drugs being assessed by NICE was 44,956 per patient last year, down from 51,797 in 2009/10.
The drugs turned down last year include treatments for advanced breast cancer, bowel cancer, prostate cancer and leukaemia.
But the charity points out that it is far better that cancer drugs are approved by NICE in the first place because there is no guarantee that patients will get them through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Its report reveals a stark postcode lottery with certain areas of the country far more likely to agree to pay for drugs through the fund than others.
It also shows that hundreds of patients are being turned away from funding even though last year 89million of the 200million went unspent.
Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the
charity, said: ‘It is concerning that there are widespread variations
in the treatments which are routinely available, increasing anxiety for
patients and resulting in unnecessary bureaucracy.
‘At a time when the Cancer Drugs Fund
is underspent, it is unacceptable that patients are still being turned
down for the drugs their doctors think could help them.’
The report shows that since the fund began in October 2010 it has paid for the treatments of more than 13,000 patients.
But 307 were refused treatment even though their specialist doctors strongly believed it could help extend their life or make it more bearable.
A NICE spokesman said: ‘If a drug is clinically and cost-effective then we will recommend it for use on the NHS.
‘But if there isn’t sufficient evidence to show that a drug provides benefits over and above currently available medicines, or if the price the NHS is being asked to pay is too high to justify its benefits, then we cannot recommend it.
‘The independent appraisal committee makes decisions in the same rigorous manner, based on evidence provided, as it did before the introduction of the Cancer Drugs Fund.’