In recent years, innovative new drugs for secondary breast cancer have been developed. Secondary breast cancer is when breast cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body. Currently, it’s incurable – but treatments can help slow its progress and reduce side effects.

The new drugs being developed to help treat secondary breast cancer are extremely effective; in some cases extending life by up to six months. But they’re also often extremely expensive.

As a result, a number of these drugs have been rejected for routine use on the NHS because they cost too much. While these drugs can’t cure secondary breast cancer, they are proven to give women months of good quality extra time with their families.

The Cancer Drugs Fund

In England, patients have been able to access some of these drugs through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). The CDF is a pot of money set aside by the Government to pay for cancer drugs in England that are too expensive to be approved for routine use on the NHS.

Due to unsustainable financial pressure and with calls for urgent reform coming from the independent Cancer Taskforce, the National Audit Office and from Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the CDF in its original form closed in March 2016.

There was no similar fund in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland meaning patients could not access many of the most effective treatments available to patients in England.

Changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund

Following the closure of the old CDF, a new system to appraise and fund cancer drugs in England was launched on the 29 July 2016.

This new system includes a reformed Cancer Drugs Fund which replaces the previous fund.

You can read our blog explaining the new system, the changes to the Cancer Drugs Fund and what it means for patients here.

We have some concerns over whether this new system will work well for breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, despite the changes being made, nothing has been done to overhaul the way the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) appraises cancer medicines.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on how breast cancer drugs fare in the new system.

What we’re doing

So far we have:

  • Responded to NICE and NHS England’s consultation on the CDF, ensuring breast cancer patients voices were heard. Read through some of the key points we raised in our consultation response and what we hope to see once the new fund is launched.
  • Campaigned for the extension of the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, and for fairer access to life-extending drugs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Successfully petitioned pharmaceutical company Roche to bring down the asking price for their drug Kadcyla, leading to it remaining on the Cancer Drugs Fund
  • Worked closely with the NHS in England as a key member of a review aimed at finding a longer-term, more sustainable system for drug access in England
  • Led a coalition of 20 charities to help shape future cancer drugs policy

We must make sure everybody living with breast cancer, in every country within the UK, has access to the drugs they need at prices the NHS can afford.

New international report - August 2016

Breast Cancer Now has published a new report jointly with Prostate Cancer UK showing that NHS cancer patients in the UK are missing out on innovative treatments being made available in some comparable countries of similar wealth.

Our report shows that this is likely in part because our appraisal systems lack the opportunity to negotiate on the price of drugs. The 'International Comparisons of Health Technology Assessment' report reviews the drug systems and availability of breast and prostate cancer treatments in England, Scotland and Wales compared to five similar countries: Germany, France, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

Download the report

More information

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