Do patient access schemes for high-cost cancer drugs deliver value to society?-lessons from the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund

Ajay Aggarwal*, T. Fojo, C. Chamberlain, C. Davis, R. Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)
140 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The NHS Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was established in 2010 to reduce delays and improve access to cancer drugs, including those that had been previously appraised but not approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). After 1.3 billion GBP expenditure, a UK parliamentary review in 2016 rationalized the CDF back into NICE. Methods: This paper analyses the potential value delivered by the CDF according to six value criteria. This includes validated clinical benefits scales, cost-effectiveness criteria as defined by NICE and an assessment of real-world data. The analysis focuses on 29 cancer drugs approved for 47 indications that could be prescribed through the CDF in January 2015. Results: Of the 47 CDF approved indications, only 18 (38%) reported a statistically significant OS benefit, with an overall median survival of 3.1 months (1.4-15.7 months). When assessed according to clinical benefit scales, only 23 (48%) and 9 (18%) of the 47 drug indications met ASCO and ESMO criteria, respectively. NICE had previously rejected 26 (55%) of the CDF approved indications because they did not meet cost-effectiveness thresholds. Four drugs-bevacizumab, cetuximab, everolimus and lapatinib-represented the bulk of CDF applications and were approved for a total of 18 separate indications. Thirteen of these indications were subsequently delisted by the CDF in January 2015 due to insufficient evidence for clinical benefit-data which were unchanged since their initial approval. Conclusions: We conclude the CDF has not delivered meaningful value to patients or society. There is no empirical evidence to support a 'drug only' ring fenced cancer fund relative to concomitant investments in other cancer domains such as surgery and radiotherapy, or other noncancer medicines. Reimbursement decisions for all drugs and interventions within cancer care should be made through appropriate health technology appraisal processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1738-1750
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology / ESMO
Issue number8
Early online date27 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Cancer economics
  • Clinical benefit scales
  • Health policy
  • Health technology assessment
  • Patient access schemes


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