Jonathan Pearce, Chair of Cancer52, said:
"Cancer52 calls on NHS England to learn from The National Audit Office’s report and ensure that the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) focuses much more on the needs of patients with rare or less common cancers.
‘While we recognise that the CDF has helped more than 74,000 people access cancer drugs not otherwise available on the NHS in England between 2010 and 2015, with 1 in 5 of all patients starting a new chemotherapy regime being CDF-funded, one of its main objectives was to help people with rare and less common cancers access new and innovative treatments.
‘The report highlights that 59% of the patients supported by the CDF were being treated for colorectal, prostate and breast cancer (three of the four most common types of cancer), which account for only 41% of overall cancer prevalence. This is disproportionate to the prevalence of those three cancers which account for only about 41% of all cancer diagnoses.
‘Rare and less common cancers account for 46% of all new cancers cases, but 54% of all cancer deaths. Although more than 70% of the drug indications (82 of 111 indications) available through the CDF in 2014-15, were for rare and less common cancers, they ended up reaching less than 40% of the people supported by CDF treatments in 2013/14 and 2014/15.
‘While no-one wants to deny anyone access to treatments that might benefit them, the findings raise serious questions about how the CDF has managed not only fair access to treatments, but also its own budgets and its understanding of the value of effective treatments.
‘Furthermore, another important objective of the CDF was to collect real-world clinical audit data on its treatment. However, according to the report the CDF has not collected usable data on the impact of the Fund’s treatments on patient outcomes, including survival (NAO report, para 4.1).
‘NHS England must listen to and learn from the report’s findings and analysis in reforming the way the CDF is managed and how it interfaces with the NICE appraisals system for new treatments. At a time when new and innovative cancer medicines are being developed quickly, it is imperative that the NHS and pharmaceutical companies work together for the benefit of patients, particularly those with rare and less common cancers where there are particular challenges with drug pricing and assessing clinical effectiveness due to the small populations of patients involved.
‘With the CDF due to come to an end in March 2016, we look forward to the anticipated consultation due out imminently. It is imperative that any new system recognises the needs of patients with rare and less common cancers."
 Investigation into the Cancer Drugs Fund (National Audit Office, 17 September 2015) – available here.