The Cancer Drug Fund (CDF) is big news today, it’s all over the news and as I type this I am waiting for my local BBC radio station to call for an interview. The problem is that
this story has been brewing for a long time now and as we approach the moment funding will run out in 2014 the panic has started to set in.

The £650 million fund has paid for treatment for over 28,000 patients nationally since 2010. This is money the Government has set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven’t been
approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and aren’t available within the NHS in England. For some it brings quality of life, others it gives precious time and for many it is truly life-saving.

The drug that I take for my leukaemia is called dasatinib. I receive it through the NHS, free at the point of delivery, as I should. But recently, since a change in NICE  guidelines, dasatinib is only available to patients who apply for it through the CDF. There are alternative treatments available but by restricting access we are restricting progress and potentially putting lives at risk. For patients who rely on the CDF for their medication this news will bring cause for concern and unnecessary worry on top of a cancer diagnosis.  They don’t know how their drugs will be funded post-2014 and no-one is reassuring them.

When I managed to catch up with Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham MP and Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP before Christmas neither man was willing to commit to extending the funding for the CDF and nearly 4 months later we still don’t have an answer or an alternative. I have written to both men and am still waiting for a response.

I am getting support. My local MP Mark Garnier, as always, is being very helpful as is the All Party Political Group (APPG) on Cancer. I hope that today is the start of the real pressure. Laura Weir, head of policy and campaigns at the MS Society and chair of the Patients Involved in NICE group, concerns me with her view that other conditions needed to be considered too. I wonder if Laura is aware that dasatinib is currently considered a breakthrough treatment for MS (see link here) and without the CDF no one would receive it, no funding, no drugs, no progress, no cures. For once I believe that we really are all in this together.

There is no point in us all fighting over funding, this is healthcare and if it benefits the patient we must all get behind it. 1 in 3 of us will be affected by cancer at some point in our lives, I was 32 when I was diagnosed. Those numbers are too high for us to sit back and do nothing.

I implore the Department for Health to either extend the CDF or provide us with plans for a real alternative now.

Cancer Drug Fund usage from October 2010 - October 2012

Cancer Drug Fund usage from October 2010 – October 2012