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High-cost Drugs

The UK plans to boost its spending on expensive cancer drugs by around £160 million ($264 million) over the next two years, increasing its outlay from £200 million a year to £280 million per year, but the government also wants to increase its scrutiny of how well these drugs work for the cost.

The UK announced the increased spending in the Cancer Drugs Fund late last week, according to the Telegraph. The fund was launched in 2010 to help cancer patients access drugs that haven't been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and for which the NHS will not pay.

The CDF, which is only available in England, has paid for drugs for 55,000 patients since it began.

"Drugs such as Kadcyla, which is produced by Roche, are at the center of the argument," the BBC reports. It adds that the drug, which is currently available through the CDF, extends life by a little less than six months, on average, and costs some £90,000 for a course.

The BBC notes, though, that if the NHS through its normal, non-CDF processes, it would spend no more than between £10,000 and £25,000 for a drug with that effectiveness.

Under the new plan, the CDF drugs also will undergo cost-benefit analyses, although those decisions will be more generous than for conventional drugs.

The new funding and investment follows some controversy over NICE's decision not to recommend two cancer drugs that have been shown to extend the lives of terminally ill patients because they were too expensive, The Independent adds.

Cancer charities have also expressed worries that the UK government has not pledged to continue the program, which is set to expire in 2016.

Chris Askew, chief of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity says there are concerns that the new funding "is not a long-term solution to the problem of access to drugs that currently exists in the UK."