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Abraxane reprieve on Cancer Drugs Fund

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 13 January 2015

Yesterday, the Cancer Drugs Fund for England (CDF) announced that Abraxane would remain on its List of Approved Drugs.

This is excellent news, especially when you consider that 25 other cancer drugs have been removed from the CDF List. Thank you to everybody who wrote to their MP asking them to intervene, or signed our Downing Street petition, or assisted our Two More Months campaign in other ways – you have helped make sure eligible patients in England can still access the drug.*

However, whilst this is good news in the short-term, as we highlighted in our press statement yesterday, there is still a longer-term threat to Abraxane’s place on the CDF. This is because the CDF panel requires additional evidence from the drug manufacturer, Celgene, about how Abraxane affects patients’ quality of life, and how toxic it is, before they will accept it should retain a place on the List long-term. They have, for the moment, made an exception – – because metastatic pancreatic cancer is a difficult disease with such a bad prognosis and few treatment options – and let the drug remain on the list whilst that evidence is put together. They will then reassess Abraxane again. We don’t  yet know how much time will be allowed for that evidence to be gathered and analysed, or whether it will be possible to influence a longer-term solution.

Which means, while we’re right to celebrate yesterday’s decision, we also need to be prepared to continue our Two More Months campaign in future. We will keep you all informed as we learn more details.

More generally, there is an urgent need to reform the whole way cancer drugs are funded by the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) makes decisions on drugs for England and its  guidance is usually followed by Wales and Northern Ireland. Currently NICE rejects a whopping 60% of all cancer drug applications.  So, the Cancer Drugs Fund for England was set up in 2010 because there was broad agreement the existing process was not working: it was seen as a short-term ‘sticking plaster’ until NICE was reformed .

However, NICE has not been reformed. Two new processes – Value Based Pricing and Value Based Assessment – have both been considered and dropped in the past couple of years. Meanwhile, time is ticking on the CDF. It is currently due to run only until 2016 and we urgently need to see a replacement system, with a format agreed by the NHS, pharmaceutical industry, clinicians, charities and government, as soon as possible. We want to play as full a part as possible in helping to create this new system and we may need your help in the coming months. Keep reading our updates, in your email inbox and on Twitter and Facebook.

*For more information about the drug Abraxane, and how access to it, please read our FAQ as access varies between different parts of the UK.