Whilst I applaud and welcome the news that the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) has been extended until 2016 with a budget of £200m a year it’s important we don’t see this as a win and look for the next battle. It is likely that this ‘new’ £400m has been top-sliced from the NHS budget in a similar fashion to original CDF thereby creating a problem at another level.

Let’s also not forget that the CDF was established in order to provide a means by which National Health Service (NHS) patients in England can get cancer drugs that are not routinely available on the NHS. This includes drugs like dasatinib (treatment for CML – Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia) that effectively saves lives (like mine) but for some misguided reason are rejected by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). The new value based pricing (VBP) system that we were expecting next year appears to have been swept under the carpet, presumably because when the government did the sums it was going to cost them more than £400m. So our new £400m is a stay-of-execution. Get the next election out-of-the-way, note that this 2 year extension ties very nicely into the coalition term, and make an unpopular decision at the beginning of the next term if the election is won. In the meantime the Conservative party can bang their drums over the next few days at the party conference to the tune of being saviours of cancer patients everywhere. Not sure how people who are suffering with other illnesses are going to feel about that one.

Even I’m astounded by the level of my own cynicism but in this case I feel it is well founded. The complete and utter failure of VBP to even emerge from the starting blocks and the countdown to the end of the CDF left the coalition with no alternative.

Patients deserve the best treatment. We should not be held hostage by pharmaceutical companies or be pawns in politics. Much of the problem lies with NICE, their flawed processes and their reliance on limited information about the clinical effects of new products supplied to it by the pharmaceutical industry. There is much to unpick. In the short-term we’ll save lives and I can’t be angry about that but in the long-term the system will still be in a mess. What we’ve been presented isn’t a solution, it is another finger in the dam and I’m losing count of the number of holes.

Kris Griffin

BBC NEWS: Cancer drugs fund ‘to be extended’ until 2016

SKY NEWS: NHS’ Life-Extending Cancer Drug Fund Extended

The Guardian: Cash injection to keep cancer drugs fund running for two more years