1. ITV Report

£1.27bn Cancer Drugs Fund offered 'no meaningful value', study finds

Researchers have criticised the effectiveness of the Cancer Drug Fund. Credit: PA

The Cancer Drugs Fund, which cost the taxpayer £1.27 billion, failed to deliver "meaningful value" to patients - and even put some at risk of side effects, according to a new study.

David Cameron set up the scheme in 2010 with the aim of increasing access to cancer medicines not routinely available on the NHS.

But now a new study into the fund, which ended in 2016, has slammed its apparent lack of effectiveness, saying it was not good value for money.

The study, published in the Annals of Oncology, claimed that the typical overall survival benefit for the drugs on offer was a mere 3.1 months of life.

And in some cases, when quality of life and toxic side-effects caused by the drugs were taken into account, the majority of drugs failed to show any evidence of meaningful clinical benefit, according to researchers.

The scheme was set up under David Cameron in 2010. Credit: PA

Since its closure, the fund has been replaced by another more closed managed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

In the latest study, researchers examined 29 drugs available through the fund in January 2015 for 47 different cancer indications.

They concluded that the majority of the drug indications were "based on studies that reported minimal to no benefit in survival."

Just 18 drugs (38%) had research showing a benefit in terms of how long patients would live.

The typical overall survival benefit for these drugs was an extra 3.1 months of life, with a range from 1.4 months to 15.7 months.

Furthermore, they argued that the benefit to patients in the "real world", as opposed to clinical trials, was probably even less, given that people in clinical trials are carefully selected, have fewer other health problems and tend to be younger.

There was also no useable data collected on what happened to people taking the drugs via the fund - such as measuring how long they lived, their quality of life and side-effects, they said.

The fund cost the public £1.27 billion. Credit: PA

"We conclude the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) has not delivered meaningful value to patients or society," the researchers said.

"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 non-cancer medicines."

The team noted that Nice had rejected use of the CDF drugs for 55% of the cancer indications because they were not cost effective.

In 2015, the fund then removed drugs for 51% of the indications.

"Eighteen of these reversals were based on evidence that existed prior to the introduction of the fund, suggesting wastage of resources but equally that drugs were given that were ineffective and probably resulted in unnecessary toxicities for patients," Dr Ajay Aggarwal, academic clinical oncologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the study, said.

"From 2010 when it started, to 2016 when it closed, the Cancer Drugs Fund cost the UK taxpayer a total of £1.27 billion, the equivalent of one year's total spend on all cancer drugs in the NHS.

"The majority of cancer medicines funded through the CDF were found wanting with respect to what patients, clinicians and Nice would count as clinically meaningful benefit."

Some experts have insisted that the fund was effective. Credit: PA

But Dr Paul Catchpole, from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the researchers didn't have enough data to "substantiate the claims".

And Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said the fund had had a "totally transformative impact" on many cancer sufferers' lives - offering them "precious extra time with their loved ones."

A Conservative spokesman said: "The Cancer Drugs Fund is a policy that has given more than 100,000 people access to the latest drugs, meaning the chance of precious extra time with their families."