Calls For Radical Change After Lung Cancer Drug Axed

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has called for “radical change” to ensure patients can access vital treatments after it was announced a lung cancer drug was among those axed from the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

The drug, Pemetrexed (Alimta), has been removed from a list of treatments paid for by the CDF in a bid to cut costs. The £280m fund was due to overspend by £100m in 2014-15. One of the functions of the Cancer Drugs Fund is to pay for drugs that have already been rejected on cost-effectiveness grounds by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Jesme Fox, Medical Director for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “We are very disappointed in the decision of the Cancer Drugs Fund to stop funding the two indications for Pemetrexed (Alimta), from 12th March 2015. We urge that this decision is reconsidered.

“This is an important treatment option for some patients with advanced non-squamous non-small lung cancer. It is anticipated that around 550 patients a year will be adversely affected. Pemetrexed was one of only two drugs for lung cancer considered for de-listing from the CDF and its removal represents a very negative development for patients with lung cancer.

“There is a clear need for a radical change to the NICE and CDF processes, to ensure appropriate patients receive anti-cancer therapies which may be beneficial to them.”

The decisions follow a review by a national panel – comprising oncologists, pharmacists and patient representatives - who looked at clinical benefit, survival and quality of life, the toxicity and safety of the treatment, the level of unmet need and the median cost per patient. In cases where the high cost of a drug would lead to its exclusion from CDF, manufacturers were given an opportunity to reduce prices.

It should be noted that Pemetrexed is NICE approved in two other lung cancer indications and SMC approved in Scotland, in all indications.

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