Seventy-nine percent of oncologists taking part in a survey commissioned by Sanofi feel that cuts to England’s Cancer Drugs Fund will compromise their ability to make optimal treatment choices for their patients.

The online survey of 115 oncologists also revealed that 74% believe the CDF panel prioritised budgetary considerations over cancer patients’ best interests when deciding to chop 25 therapies from the Fund, as announced back in January.

Specifically, almost two-thirds of prostate cancer clinicians expect to manage the condition with less effective treatment for longer, or move patients onto palliative care sooner, because of the removal of Sanofi’s Jevtana (cabazitaxel) from the list, while 70% said outcomes for patients in England will take a downturn as a result.

Sanofi also argues that NHS England's plans to cut drugs from the CDF are “surprising” because cancer patients in the country “are still faring poorly compared to their European counterparts”. The UK spends less on cancer drugs per inhabitant than in other European countries - especially on newer drugs, while the CDF accounts for just 0.3% of total NHS spend, it notes.

Future uncertain

However, the future of the CDF remains uncertain, given the looming general election. Cameron has previously pledged his commitment to the Fund but details remain sketchy, while if Labour takes control it plans to remould the Fund so that it includes other forms of treatment such as radiotherapy. 

Also, NHS England, the Department of Health, cancer charities, NICE, the Ethical Medicines Industry Group and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry have formed a new ‘working party’ tasked with finding the best way to get new cancer drugs appraised and commissioned for patients.