David Cameron’s flagship Cancer Drugs Fund ‘is a waste of NHS cash’

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Protesters in London call for life-saving cancer drugs to be made available on the NHS in 2008.By Robin McKie – The Guardian. Image: Martin Argles/The Guardian.

UK Prime minister’s policy is condemned as ‘unethical fix’ that discriminates against other patients.

A furious political row is set to erupt this week over a key part of David Cameron’s health service strategy. The Cancer Drugs Fund, which was set up at the prime minister’s behest to bring last-chance drugs to dying patients, is expected to have its soaring costs severely trimmed by an NHS England review. The move will draw attention to intense criticisms of what was one of the prime minister’s flagship health plans. Some doctors claim the fund is “an unethical political fix”.

Pharmaceutical companies have already expressed outrage because their drugs will no longer be bought through the fund and have warned that thousands of terminally ill cancer patients will lose crucial palliative care.

At the same time, other health experts say that the reining in of the fund – set up to promote expensive cancer medicines in priority to drugs for all other diseases – reveals its creation was merely a politically expedient move aimed at ending the embarrassment of tabloid tales about cancer patients being denied “life-saving” drugs. They want the CDF to be axed.

Professor Richard Sullivan, director of the Institute of Cancer Policy, London, explained: “The Cancer Drugs Fund was a cheap political fix. Worse, it is unethical. You cannot give priority to cancer over all other serious illnesses, including coronary ailments and dementia. These types of patients are just as deserving of expensive medicines as are cancer patients.”

The Cancer Drugs Fund was originally given a budget of £200m and powers to purchase cancer drugs, even though many had already been rejected because they were not considered to be cost-effective by the National Institute for Healthand Care Excellence (Nice), the body that approves drugs for use in the health service. New cancer drugs can add months to patients’ lives, but can cost £90,000 a course…read more.

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