Are Cancer Drugs Providing Value to Patients?

By Dr. Thomas Incledon

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for many. While there are many avenues of support and more and more research is being done every year on how to successfully treat cancer patients, there is still a lot of information to digest. Cancer medications are often a go-to route for many providers treating patients, but, are these cancer drugs providing real life-saving value to patients? Not necessarily, according to a report published in the Annals of Oncology.

In 2010, the government established the U.K. Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) to help patients with the costs of expensive cancer medicines that were not obtainable with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The initial budget was set at £50 million per year, but in total, £1.3 billion was spent in a 6-year time frame (2010-2016). The goal of the program was to improve accessibility to cancer drugs in addition to helping with the delay of getting drugs approved for use through NICE. The authors of the study looked at the potential value to patients through six criteria points, and they analyzed 29 cancer drugs that were approved for various types of cancer treatments.

Results showed that out of the 47 CDF-approved indications, only 38% were considered significantly advantageous toward overall survival. Twenty-six of the drugs were previously rejected by NICE for being not cost-effective enough to get approval. The report also concluded that many patients may have experienced more good than bad, and may have endured toxic side effects from the medicine they took. (1)

Cancer patients should be aware that “drug only” cancer treatments are not producing results on par with expectations. In fact, this mode of treatment may not be the best way to go. Individuals that have recently learned they have cancer should question the treatments that are offered by their providers and should seek a well-rounded treatment plan, rather than one that relies solely on available cancer drugs. Patients should instead ask about supplements, nutrition changes, exercise regimens and other lifestyle changes that can help with combatting cancer.

“Do patient access schemes for high-cost cancer drugs deliver value to society?—lessons from the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund. Accessed online January 26, 2018.