Funding of experimental treatments

According to NHS commissioning policy, it is standard practice not to fund treatments that are considered to be experimental, however, exceptions can be made. The NHS Cancer Drugs Fund can be used to fund access to promising and newly-licensed cancer drugs while further evidence is collected. As part of compassionate use schemes, manufacturers might offer experimental medicines free-of-charge to eligible NHS patients until there is sufficient evidence to decide whether its use should be funded across the NHS.29

When patients or those caring for them seek treatments outside the NHS or abroad, they will usually have to source their own funding. Crowdfunding websites have emerged in recent years as a way to raise funds for costly medical treatments.30 According to a recent study, more than 540 crowdfunding appeals have sought to raise money for UK patients to have experimental or alternative cancer treatments since 2012, most of which were offered abroad.31


29 For example, Biogen set up an Expanded Access Programme to give interim access to the drug nusinersen for children with SMA Type 1, see SMA UK (2018) The UK expanded access programme for nusinersen for children with SMA type 1. MHRA
(2014) Guidance: apply for the early access to medicines scheme (EAMS).
30 Young M (2017) The Rise of crowdfunding for medical care: promises and perils JAMA 13:16.
31 Newman M (2018) Is cancer fundraising fuelling quackery? BMJ 362: k3829.

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