The National Cancer Drugs Fund

The CDF has made the headlines this week  as it has been announced that many drugs will no longer be funded.

This is an emotive issue and many will not agree with some of my reservations about both the fund and some of the changes. To the best of my knowledge patients with head and neck cancer will not be affected much by the changes. However a couple of questions occur to me. Does cancer, with this fund, get more than its fair share of funding in comparison to some other chronic and life-threatening conditions? Why are some of the patients I work with in the UK excluded from the CDF just because they happen to live in Northern Ireland and Scotland?

Being a laryngectomee is a very rare situation, but we expect that medical staff will all know how to treat us and keep us safe. Some of the rarer cancers have been particularly hard-hit by the changes to the CDF – e.g. patients with Sarcoma. Here are some facts about the impact on them.

Sarcomas are a group of rare diseases. They have lost three treatments funded by CDF. One drug was only applicable to about 20 patients a year. There is no other valid treatment. One was applicable to about 30 patients a year and was getting great results, as yet unpublished. The third was applicable to about 60 patients a year with clinical data indicating a median survival about twice that of the trials – but as yet unpublished. None had been NICE appraised because the number of patients is too small to justify the costs.

Is it fair to cut drugs through lack of evidence when getting such evidence is unpractical, especially when treatment alternatives are non-existent?