Rare Daily Staff

The National Health Service England said its patients will benefit from early access to potentially life-saving new medicines, including cutting-edge gene therapies, through a newly created Innovative Medicines Fund and $934.3 million (£680 million) of funding.

The Innovative Medicines Fund will build upon the success of the Cancer Drugs Fund by supporting patients with any condition, including those with rare and genetic diseases, to get early access to the most clinically promising treatments where further data is needed to support the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the U.K.’s drug price watch dog, in making final recommendations around their routine use in the NHS.

An estimated one in 17 people will be affected by a rare disease in their lifetime, and this fund will now support the NHS to fast-track patient access to treatments that can demonstrate substantial clinical promise but still have significant uncertainty around their clinical and cost effectiveness and hence long-term value for taxpayers.

Along with the existing $467.2 million (£340 million) Cancer Drugs Fund which will be guaranteed its current funding levels. The new $467.2 million (£340 million initiative doubles the total amount of funding NHS England will deploy on fast-tracked drugs.

“Tens of thousands of patients have already benefitted from the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund and the new Innovative Medicines Fund will mean all patients, not just those with cancer, will benefit from early access to the most promising and innovative treatments, backed by £680m of ringfenced funds,” NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens said.

In the last year, NHS England said it has successfully negotiated deals for a range of new treatments, including drugs which may allow young children with spinal muscular atrophy the chance to walk thanks to the “world’s most expensive drug,” as well as giving cystic fibrosis patients the latest medicines against their debilitating disease.  This new fund, it said, will build on these successes and offer hope to even more patients.

“We want NHS patients to continue to be the first in the world to benefit from cutting-edge treatments as we bust the backlog,” said Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary. “The Innovative Medicines Fund is another example of the government delivering on its manifesto commitments, and it will significantly reduce the time it takes for the most promising new medicines to reach patients, including children and those with rare diseases, saving lives and giving many people hope for a healthier future.

The Innovative Medicines Fund will operate in the same way as the Cancer Drugs Fund with NICE having an option other than an immediate decision about routine availability on the NHS.

It will provide treatments like cutting-edge gene therapies that could offer life-saving benefits and particularly help those with less common diseases where data collection on medicines’ effectiveness take longer to obtain due to the smaller patient cohort.

In the past five years the Cancer Drugs Fund provided more than 64,000 people access to life-extending or potentially life-saving drugs which might otherwise not have been available for years.

Accessing treatments earlier can improve outcomes for patients and, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England’s Commercial Medicines Directorate has used its commercial capabilities to secure access to several innovative medicines for NHS patients, including many world-first or first in Europe drug deals.

The finalized fund will be subject to a formal public consultation in the next few weeks that will involve patient groups, pharmaceutical companies, and other stakeholders.

Photo: NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens

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