Are some patients more equal than others? Looking back at the Cancer Drugs Fund

Padraig Dixonby Dr Padraig Dixon
Senior Research Associate
Centre for Academic Primary Care

Imagine being given £400m of taxpayers’ money to spend on drugs for the benefit of NHS cancer patients. How would you decide which therapies to fund? Would you decide that all cancer patients should benefit equally, or would you decide to spend more on particular types of cancer, or on particular types of patient?

These issues were confronted by the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), the 2014/15 expenditures of which were £416m (against a budget of £280m). The CDF was created to make available to patients in England cancer drugs not recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on the basis of cost-effectiveness, not yet appraised by NICE or which were being used outside market authorisations.

The effects of the CDF on population health are controversial: one estimate is that the CDF has caused five times … Read more