A new report, commissioned by Cancer Research UK and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, suggests that paying for cancer drugs based on how well they work in practice could help patients get new treatments faster.

This flexible way of paying for cancer medicines, known as outcome-based payment (OBP), would mean a drug’s price could be adjusted based on how well it works for patients in the NHS.

This approach would see the NHS paying a company less for a medicines that doesn’t work as well as expected, but more if it does.

The suggestion comes as many cancer drugs are increasing in complexity and cost, while in some cases the full extent of patient benefit may be unclear when evidence is still emerging, which can make it difficult for the NHS and manufacturers to agree a price for them, resulting in delays.

This means that as well as providing value for money for the NHS, companies whose medicines represent genuine advances would also be rewarded, the groups argue.

“Outcome-based payment is a promising way to get some drugs to patients quickly where the NHS and the manufacturer are struggling to agree a fixed price," said Emlyn Samuel, Cancer Research UK’s head of policy development.

"This is already happening in other disease areas like hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis. We look forward to working with government, NHS England, industry and patients to make this approach an option for new cancer drugs too.”

Researchers consulted experts in government, NHS England, NICE, the pharmaceutical industry, and people affected by cancer to develop the agreement on the treatment outcomes that should form the basis of an OBP approach.