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Cancer Drugs Fund changes will end regional variation in access

By News team

Regional lists of medicines available through England’s Cancer Drugs Fund have been scrapped in favour of a single national list, it emerged yesterday (4 April 2013). The move is intended to end local variation in access to treatment, says NHS England, which took over management of the fund this month.

The national Cancer Drugs Fund list contains 28 approved fast-track drugs for the treatment of around 70 cancer conditions. Some of these drugs were not previously included in all 10 of the fund’s regional lists.

Patients receiving drugs that did not make it on to the national list will continue to have their treatment funded for as long as is clinically appropriate, NHS England says. Clinicians can still make individual funding requests for cancer drugs that are not on the national list, and apply for drugs to be added to it.

Steve Williamson, consultant pharmacist in cancer services at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and one of the specialists that devised the national list, said the move addresses patient concerns about variations in drug access and creates a level playing field across England.

Entering an era of uniform access to cancer medicines

"NHS England will also be publishing a single list of cancer medicines that can be funded by standard NHS baseline funding. Once again, this is beneficial for patients since it removes regional variation. We are entering an era of consistency and uniform access to cancer medicines, and are currently enjoying unprecedented access to new cancer medicines," he told The Journal.

"However, these arrangements are only confirmed for the next 12 months because currently the Cancer Drugs Fund is set to end in April 2014," he pointed out.

Mr Williamson is one of three specialist cancer pharmacists appointed to a group that will review new cancer medicines for inclusion in the national list. The Clinical Reference Group for Chemotherapy, which includes immediate-past chairman of the British Oncology Pharmacy Association David Thomson and Jacky Turner, Macmillan principal pharmacist for oncology and haematology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, will make rapid recommendations to NHS England while drugs await assessment by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Mr Williamson said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11119579

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