The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was created in 2010 to help ensure cancer patients in England could access the latest treatments. In 2015 the Westminster government announced its intention to reform the CDF and bring it more in line with the existing drug approval process offered by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Target Ovarian Cancer has always made it clear that any reforms must focus on increasing patient access to the latest treatments, and submitted evidence to the government based on the views of women who have had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Our campaigners take action
One thing that worries us is the impact on off-license drugs. While the old CDF had the authority to approve cancer drugs for off-license use, for example at a different dose, NICE lacks this power. Avastin (bevacizumab) is one of the few new treatments to have become available for women with ovarian cancer in recent years. It is currently funded by the CDF for off-license use.
An amazing 600 of our supporters wrote to their MP asking them to raise the issue of off-license cancer drugs with the Secretary of State for Health - and we are therefore pleased to learn that NHS England has now committed to creating a separate structure to manage the approval process for off-license cancer drugs like Avastin.
However, we are still waiting for more information on how this process will work, including what it means for future cancer drugs that may need off-license approval.
We are also disappointed that by keeping this process within NHS England, rather than giving NICE the power to approve the off-license use of cancer drugs, Avastin will continue to be unavailable to women in Wales and Northern Ireland who are not covered by the CDF.
Rebecca Rennison, Target Ovarian Cancer's Director of Public Affairs and Services, said: “We are delighted to see that NHS England recognises the importance of safeguarding the future of cancer drugs such as Avastin which are currently approved for off-license use.
"However, we remain concerned that by not giving this decision-making responsibility to NICE, these drugs will continue to be denied to women living in Wales and Northern Ireland."