The government will stop funding 25 cancer treatments as part of its efforts to stem the soaring costs of treatment by £80 million.
The changes are intended to stop the budget of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) from spiraling out of control. Launched by David Cameron in 2010, the cost of the £200 million fund was estimated to have been on course to cost £420 million by next year.
The budget will now rise to £340 million in April from £280 million this past year.
A review carried out by doctors, pharmacists and patients' representatives concluded that 25 of the 84 treatments currently offered by the fund should be dropped. Professor Peter Clark, who chairs the fund, defended the move, saying the costs of the drugs were not being justified by the clinical benefits.
The prices for others on the supplementary fund list have been reduced following negotiationis with pharmaceutical companies.
There were drugs that did not offer sufficient clinical benefit so we simply cannot go on funding those. There were others that offered some benefit but were costly and I am pleased that a number of pharmaceutical firms worked with us to make prices more affordable, saving millions of pounds that can now be reinvested in other treatments. These are difficult decisions, but if we don't prioritise the drugs that offer the best value, many people could miss out on promising, more effective treatments that are in the pipeline.
Cancer charities across the board criticised the move, and complained about about a lack of transparency in the government's drug appraisal system.
Today's announcement is just another symptom of a drug appraisal system in meltdown. It underlines yet again the critical need for a more effective overall solution to the commissioning of cancer drugs across the whole of the UK, with the full cooperation from the pharmaceutical industry.
NHS England stressed that patients currently receiving a drug from the fund would keep getting it, even if it was removed from the list.
Doctors who strongly disagree can also apply to prescribe it on "an exceptional basis". Chief executive of Beating Bowel cancer said the changes will mean a majority of patients with advanced bowel cancer will die earlier.
This is bad news for bowel cancer patients. It's likely that 65% of patients with advanced bowel cancer face the probability of an earlier death by being refused innovative treatments that were available before.
Breast Cancer charity Breast Cancer Care said the cuts will hurt thousands of breast cancer patients.
Thousands of breast cancer patients have today been denied the chance of improved quality of life and extra time with their loved-ones. This news is devastating for them.
The Department of Health said next year's budget is more than was originally allocated, and the government's "protection" of NHS budgets mean the fund will still continue to exist.
The Cancer Drugs Fund has already helped over 60,000 people access drugs and next year we will spend £340m so people get the drugs they need.