An important week for the future of the Cancer Drugs Fund has begun as NHS England starts its re-evaluation of 25 treatments currently on the list and reviews the merits of another ten.

A number of treatments face being de-listed from the Fund, having been picked for re-evaluation because of their high price. The list includes drugs for breast (six meds) and colorectal (six) cancers, plus six for lymphoma and four for myeloma.

The national CDF panel, which is meeting today and tomorrow (December 16) is also looking at new treatments, notably Pharmacyclics and Johnson & Johnson’s leukaemia and lymphoma drug Imbruvica (ibrutinib), Gilead Sciences’ leukaemia therapy Zydelig (idelalisib) and AstraZeneca’s Lynparza (olaparib) as maintenance treatment for advanced ovarian cancer.

Companies and patient groups are waiting with bated breath to see which treatments make the cut. It comes at a time when the very existence of such a fund is being called into question.

Scrap 'populist' fund - FT

The Financial Times has joined the debate, saying that the CDF is “a costly mistake” which has undermined the systematic approach of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, “giving in to special pleading from one set of diseases at the expense of others”.

The newspaper also criticises the Labour Party’s plans to create a new cancer fund that will pay for surgery and radiotherapy as well as innovative medicines from April 2016 if it wins the election next year. It says Labour should pledge to support NICE “and scrap the CDF instead”.

To do otherwise “is a populist gesture that gives the impression of benefiting patients, but in fact rewards poor quality drugs while benefiting a handful of pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the taxpayer and the full range of NHS patients”, the FT concludes.