Background: The Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) provides £200 million annually in England for 'anti-cancer' drugs.
Methods: We used a controlled pre-/post-intervention design to compare IMS Health dispensing data for 15 cancer drugs (2007-2012) in England vs Wales, stratified by pre-CDF NICE drug approval status (rejected, mixed recommendations, recommended, not appraised).
Results: The CDF was associated with increased prescribing in England for three of five drugs rejected or with mixed NICE recommendations. The prescribing volume ratios (PVR) ranged from 1.29 (95% CI 1.00, 1.67) for sorafenib to 3.28 (2.59, 4.14) for bevacizumab (NICE rejected) and 0.93 (0.81, 1.06) and 1.35 (1.21, 1.49) for sunitinib and imatinib respectively (mixed recommendations). Post CDF prescribing in England increased for both drugs awaiting NICE appraisal pre-CDF (lapatinib PVR=7.44 (5.81, 9.54), panitumumab PVR=5.40 (1.20, 24.42)) and subsequently rejected. The CDF was not associated with increased prescribing in England of NICE-recommended drugs. The three most recently launched, subsequently recommended drugs were adopted faster in Wales (from pazopanib PVR=0.51 (0.28, 0.96) to abiraterone PVR=0.78 (0.61-0.99)).
Interpretation: These data indicate that the CDF is used to access drugs deemed not cost-effective by NICE. The CDF did not expedite access to new cost-effective cancer agents prior to NICE approval.