January 12, 2015 / 5:25 PM / 5 years ago

Britain's health service to halt access to some costly cancer drugs

LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Several expensive cancer medicines will no longer be available on Britain’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) following an overhaul of an over-budget drug funding scheme, NHS England said on Monday.

The revamp was triggered by the escalating cost of supplying modern cancer therapies, which often cost tens of thousands of pounds for a course of treatment.

Drug companies have been in urgent talks with the health service about the cuts. In some cases that has resulted in price reductions, allowing certain medicines to stay on the list, but other firms have failed to reach a workable deal.

Japan’s Eisai said it was “outraged” by a decision to de-list its breast cancer drug Halaven. Other notable drugs being dropped include Sanofi’s prostate and bowel cancer drugs Jevtana and Zaltrap.

The changes follow a review of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which pays for treatments deemed too costly under the normal process for evaluating medicines. The fund has overspent hugely since it was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011.

Manufacturers argue that the de-listings fly in the face of evidence that their medicines offer clear benefits, but critics of the CDF claim it was set up for political reasons, resulting in money being wasted on excessively pricey drugs.

While most drugs have been retained, the list of approved clinical uses for medicines has been cut to 59 from 84 previously.

Despite the revamp, the CDF budget will still increase to an expected 340 million pounds ($515 million) in the year from April 2015 from 280 million in 2014/15. If action had not been taken, the projected cost would have grown to around 420 million in the coming year.

“There were drugs that did not offer sufficient clinical benefit so we simply cannot go on funding those,” said Peter Clark, chair of the CDF and a practising oncologist.

“There were others that offered some benefit but were costly and I am pleased that a number of pharmaceutical firms worked with us to make prices more affordable, saving millions of pounds that can now be reinvested in other treatments.”

$1 = 0.6596 pounds Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by John Stonestreet

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