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U.K. announces restrictions on cancer medicines

By Tim Sandle     Sep 2, 2014 in Health
London - The U.K. government has announced that is extending the annual spend on its Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) from the current £200 million a year to £280 million a year. This is to accommodate for the rise of cancer drug costs.
Whilst the investment in cancer medication in the U.K. is increasing, the British government has emphasized that a “blank check” for cancer medications is not built into the proposals. Furthermore, the additional £160 million spend, earmarked over the next two years, is not being set aside for new medications. The additional financing it is simply to pay for the rising costs of the new drugs. However, none of the current 55,000 patients who are currently prescribed cancer medication will have any current treatments terminated; furthermore, any patients diagnosed with rare conditions, and who have no other option, will continue to be allowed access to the most effective cancer drugs.
As well as deciding upon funding, the CDF will scrutinize each medicine for its cost-effectiveness and efficacy. The U.K. government has instructed the agency not to fund any medicines that are deemed too costly. Over the course of its existence, the CDF has paid out more than $1 billion (for the period October 2010 to date). The CDF has a review date in March 2016, when the continuation of the Agency will be reviewed.
The CDF was established by the U.K. government as a mechanism for allocating cancer medications to patients in England who require specific treatments that are not routinely available through the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS is the U.K.’s taxpayer funded healthcare system, which is free for all British citizens going into a hospital at point of use.
Commenting on the new funding arrangement, the U.K. government health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told The Guardian: "It's vitally important that as many people as possible have access to these pioneering, life-enhancing drugs, and we need to continue to focus our efforts on increasing access to these innovative treatments, while ensuring that all patients continue to receive the effective drugs which are right for them.
"By protecting the NHS budget, we have been able to create this fund which has given hope to many thousands of people, their families and friends, and has an essential role in helping us realise our ambition to be the best place in Europe to survive cancer."
In relation to major pharmaceutical companies the Swiss drug maker Roche receives the highest payments from the CDF; this is at a rate of £50 million per calendar year. Riche have received this run regularly since 2010. Most of the money spent is for Roche's multi-cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab).
The tightening of drug spending has been criticized by some patient groups. For example, Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, has told the website PharmaFile: “we remain concerned that this is not a long-term solution to the problem of access to drugs that currently exists in the UK.”
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