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By Neil Trainis

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The new Cancer Drugs Fund went live today with an annual budget of £340 million for 2016-17, although its relaunch has been greeted with scepticism by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry who continue to call for reform of what it regards as an outdated system of medicines appraisal.

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Under the relaunched CDF, the cost-effectiveness of all cancer drugs about to receive a licence will be evaluated by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Drugs deemed potentially effective but do not have enough evidence to back them up could be temporarily funded.

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Patient groups, however, are concerned the new Fund will not address the underlying problems stopping cancer drugs reaching NHS patients and the ABPI said the relaunched CDF would not provide a panacea under NICE's rigid “core appraisal process.”

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 Dr Paul Catchpole, ABPI’s director of value and access, said: “The new Cancer Drugs Fund is a welcome step in the right direction for researchers, developers and manufacturers of cancer medicines, and is good news for the NHS and patients.

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“By joining the dots between NICE and NHS England to ensure medicines are made available during periods of evidence collection and further analysis, drugs companies who provide access to the latest innovations in oncology, and patients, should eventually both benefit from a more simplified process. 

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“However given the hold-up in the cancer medicines pipeline that has existed for more than a year, the early litmus test of the new CDF will be a measurable improvement in faster access and uptake.

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“Beyond this fundamentally important and welcome change, it’s clear that further evolution of NICE is required, without which we may see the clock set back on access to innovation.

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“We will continue to be at risk of seeing more medicines routinely turned down for use unless there is greater flexibility in NICE’s core appraisal process.

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“This is particularly the case for medicines targeted at smaller patient populations – such as those for rarer types of cancers – that we know get routinely held back under the current ‘one size fits all’ system.”

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Catchpole added: "Under the new CDF, companies will have to commit, in advance, to bearing 100% of future financial risk if the new Fund overspends its budget.

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“Given the fact that the old Fund consistently overspent significantly on its allocated budget, and that industry already underwrites the majority of expenditure on branded medicines over and above agreed levels, we must work towards a fairer and more equitable system of financial risk.

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“Without this, there remains the concern that much needed medicines may not make their way to market.”

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