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Cancer Drugs Fund

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

11. Whether it remains the policy of the cancer drugs fund to provide drugs which NICE has rejected for general use in the NHS. (906229)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his tireless campaigning on the issue of cancer drugs. I can assure him that the cancer drugs fund now administered by NHS England continues to fund effective cancer drugs which have been not been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Over 60,000 patients in England have benefited from the fund since October 2010. That is why we announced a £160 million boost to the fund earlier this year.

Will my hon. Friend look again at the CDF’s proposal to delist 42 cancer drugs, including Abraxane, which was put on the list only nine months ago and is the first new drug in nearly 40 years to produce an extension of life for pancreatic cancer patients?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his notice. I have spoken to NICE. It is appraising the use of Abraxane for pancreatic cancer and has not yet published its final guidance. It would not be appropriate for me to intervene at this point. Obviously, we respect NICE’s clinical independence. Abraxane is available through the CDF for patients meeting specific clinical criteria. I understand that the NHS England’s CDF panel plans to reassess the inclusion of Abraxane in the national list, but no decisions have yet been made.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw). Everyone in every part of the United Kingdom wants to improve access to cancer medicines. When the Prime Minister launched the cancer drugs fund in the home of Clive Stone, he promised to get

“more drugs to people more quickly”.

Mr Stone recently criticised proposals to remove a number of drugs from the fund, writing in his local newspaper that

“People are going to die, there is no doubt about it. Why don’t people keep their promises?”

Additionally, the Breakthrough Breast Cancer campaign has said that it is

“deeply concerned that several very effective breast cancer drugs appear on the list of drugs at risk of delisting”.

We all know someone affected by cancer in some way. What does the Secretary of State have to say to those patients relying on those drugs that are being removed from the fund?

The first thing I would say is that we have given an undertaking that any patients currently on drugs will not have the drug removed. Secondly, we are dealing with some very difficult issues. We have had extraordinary breakthroughs in the progress and rate of development of new cancer drugs, and we need to have a system for ensuring that the cost-benefits—the health economics—are done properly. NICE leads the world in making these difficult clinical judgments and we support its independence in doing so, but we need to ensure that we are not turning this issue into a political football. I notice that the shadow Health Secretary said that this was good politics but not good policy. It is really important that we ensure that when we set a benchmark on this debate we are guided by what is best for patients.