£50m NHS cancer drug fund branded 'unfair'

A £50 million NHS fund for cancer drugs deemed too expensive by NICE may be unfair and could run out of cash, a GP prescribing expert has warned.

NICE: over-ruled by DoH fudn (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

The fund was launched last week under DoH plans to improve use of new treatments.

But Dr Bill Beeby, GPC prescribing subcommittee chairman, questioned whether it was right to over-rule NICE's decisions on cost effectiveness.

'Is it fair to have an organisation called NICE, which is meant to make that assessment, and then find pressure on the government leads to a special fund for some people?' he said.

The launch came as a report by England's cancer director Professor Sir Mike Richards showed UK use of new cancer drugs lags behind most of Europe.

Sir Mike said the Cancer Drug Fund, launching in April 2011 but starting in interim form from October in England, would help 'several thousand' patients.

But Dr Beeby said it only 'scratched the surface'. 'Cancer drugs can cost £50,000 or more. When you start dividing £50 million by those sorts of figures, it doesn't go far.'

The Alzheimer's Society said Sir Mike's report was a 'scathing indictment of problems with access to dementia drugs' after it ranked the UK 11th out of 14 countries.

Asked why there was no new fund for other disease areas, the DoH said: 'There are some innovative new cancer treatments NICE cannot approve due to cost-effectiveness.

In the long term, the government plans to introduce value-based pricing and make new medicines available to NHS patients.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

GP appointment

General practice delivered 342m appointments in 2022 - and lost nearly 500 GPs

General practice in England delivered around 342m appointments in total in 2022 with...

NHS sign

Local GPs unite to take over two practices run by hospital trust

GPs in Swindon have come together to take over two practices that had spent more...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Why are junior doctors preparing to strike?

Talking General Practice speaks to BMA GP trainee committee chair Dr David Smith...


Practices face losing out on QOF income amid soaring demand

GP practices risk losing out on QOF income this year because sky-high demand for...

Nurse giving older man a COVID-19 vaccine

JCVI recommends targeted COVID-19 vaccination programme in 2023

People at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered a booster vaccination...

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay leaving number 10 Downing Street

Government sets out plans for 'major conditions' health strategy

The government is to set out a strategy to tackle six 'major' health conditions in...