U.K. unveils top cancer brands facing yea-or-nay for CDF funding

More than two dozen top-selling cancer drugs are on a hit list in the U.K. The country's Cancer Drugs Fund, designed to cover oncology meds not approved by cost-effectiveness watchdogs, plans to take a sharp look at these drugs at a meeting next month. And some of them may find themselves shut out for funding--unless new discount plans are in the offing.

The drugs up for discussion include some of the newest--and most expensive--cancer therapies on the market. Roche's ($RHHBY) breast-cancer treatments Perjeta and Kadcyla, for instance. Pfizer's ($PFE) leukemia treatment Bosulif and targeted lung cancer drug Xalkori. Colon cancer treatments from Bayer and Amgen ($AMGN) (Stivarga) and Sanofi ($SNY) (Zaltrap). And so on; check out the full list.

Patient groups and drugmakers aren't happy about the reassessment plans. After all, the CDF is specifically designed to pay for the drugs stiff-armed by gatekeepers at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. But despite a £160 million addition to its budget, the fund is strapped for cash. And with drug prices soaring past $100,000, that's not likely to change.

For all of these drugs, the cost-benefits analysis will be a re-run of the debate before NICE decided against them. The agency has even suggested that CDF use its processes for assessing the treatments.

So, could this mean price cuts or discounts or creative payment plans? Often, drugmakers offer some sort of cost-cutting payment scheme to persuade NICE to accept their products. But with these expensive drugs, those offers fell short. The new assessment may prod some drugmakers to make new offers.

In fact, pharma companies seem to expect some sort of pricing demand. In discussing the parameters for the new assessments, the drugmakers made clear that they expect info on their drugs' costs--current and future--to be confidential. If new discount or rebates went public, other countries might demand the same.

- read the NHS list of drugs for assessment
- see the report on the assessment process
- get The Guardian story

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