The National Cancer Action Team has published the first in a series of bulletins designed to provide an overview of the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The first edition provides an update on drugs funded through the Cancer Drugs Fund in its first year of operation (2011/12), highlights the current systems and processes in place, and focuses on the work underway for the next two years of the fund’s operation.

The principal function of the fund is to improve access to clinically effective, safe cancer drugs which are not routinely available on the NHS, for example, drugs not yet appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), drugs not recommended by NICE and drugs for off label use.

The bulletin reports that over 10,000 cancer patients benefited from access to the fund between April 2011 and March 2012. One quarter of fund applications were for bevacizumab (Avastin) while, overall, the ten most commonly used cancer drugs accounted for 80 per cent of the total number of applications. Decisions on applications for routinely funded indications have been made within 2-5 days of receipt and fund panels are reported to be keeping well abreast of the licensing of new drugs, on the publication of new clinical data and the switch in funding streams from fund to primary care trusts when NICE approves a cancer drug,

The main focus for 2012/13 will be increasing convergence of key fund processes to enable common policies and principles to be adhered to, and increasing robustness in the collation and review of outcome data, to be fed back into everyday NHS practice.