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Editor's blog Tuesday 26 October 2010: Lansley announces £200 million cancer drugs fund to undermine NICE

And in the end, the runes in the CSR about "up to £200 million" were smoke.

Health Secretary Andrew Liberatin' Lansley today announced that the National Cancer Drugs Fund will have £200 million annual budget for its first full year. It is guaranteed  from April 2011 to the end of March 2014.

The DH press release also outlines a consultation among healthcare professionals, patients, carers and the public on these arrangements and other proposals for the Fund’s operation such as:
• ways to support patients and their clinicians in making the best treatment decisions;
• the need for guidance to support the operation of the process; and
• what the precise scope of the fund should be.

Nastiness to NICE
The release glosses splendidly over the fact that the existence of the National Cancer Drugs Fund is basically a massive undermining of the validity of NICE's cost-effectiveness rationing role.

The release states drily, "All drugs recommended as clinically and cost effective by NICE will continue to be funded by the NHS ... NICE continues to play a pivotal role in ensuring patient access to clinically and cost effective drugs and treatments. NICE has a well-deserved reputation as an international leader in its field and, as set out in the White Paper, it remains at the heart of our plans for liberating the NHS, including significant expansion of its role on quality standards. NICE will continue to appraise most significant new drugs, and will have an important part to play in our longer-term plans to introduce value-based pricing for new medicines".

Which makes us wonder why, after the Richards Review mandated increasing the spend on end-of-life drugs for rarer cancers, a specific fund that can ignore NICE rationing decisions is either a good or a necessary idea.

And it's probably worth pointing out from the archives that when VAT goes up to 20% in the New Year, the NHS budget will be, oh, about £200 million down a year.