During an announcement on Wednesday, the NHS chief executive unveiled the introduction of a new Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF) and £680 million of ringfenced funding, made up of £340m existing Cancer Drugs Fund, and £340m IMF funding. It is expected to benefit patients who will receive early access to potentially life-saving new medicines, including cutting-edge gene therapies.
The IMF aims to support patients with any condition, including those with rare and genetic diseases, building on the success of the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). It will mean that patients are able to get early access to the most clinically promising treatments, where further data is still needed to support NICE in their final recommendations for the routine use in the NHS.
It is estimated that one in 17 people will be affected by a rare disease in their lifetime. The funding will support the NHS in fast-tracking treatment access for patients. Although this will demonstrate substantial clinical promise, there it still poses significant uncertainty around their clinical and cost effectiveness.
NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said: “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.
“The NHS Long Term Plan is leading to fast track access for innovative, cutting-edge therapies, at the same time as the NHS has also been treating more than 400,000 Covid hospitalised patients, and delivering the fastest and largest vaccination campaign in our history.
“In the last year NHS England has successfully negotiated deals for a range of new treatments, including drugs which may allow toddlers 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 will build on these successes, offering hope to even more patients.”
Some of the benefits include improved 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 new funding will be subject to a formal public consultation in the next few weeks, which will also involve patient groups, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders.
Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “We want NHS patients to continue to be the first in the world to benefit from cutting-edge treatments as we bust the backlog.
“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.
“This vital new initiative extends the successful Cancer Drugs Fund model to other patients, bringing equal access to the best treatments for all, regardless of the condition.”
The IMF will work in the same way as the CDF, where NICE will have another option rather than an immediate decision about routine availability on the NHS.
In the last five years the CDF has provided more than 64,000 people access to life-extending or potentially life-saving drugs, that might not usually have been available for years.