A new fund, the Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF), has been created and will operate in the same way as the current Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which can accelerate breakthrough treatments, despite high prices and even without approval for routine NHS use.
The IMF will provide potentially life-saving drugs for rare and genetic diseases, with the UK government pledging up to £680m a year to be split between the funds.
As with the CDF, the IMF could authorize the prescription of a newly approved drug with immediate effect, before the final recommendations developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which balance the weight of the cost against the benefit of the medicines used by the NHS.
The treatment would be made available to patients who need it while data is evaluated by NICE to determine whether the drug is affordable and effective enough to be offered more widely.
Scotland has already set up a similar fund for innovative treatments, the ‘New Medicines Fund’, and Wales has a ‘New Treatments Fund’ which helps pay for expensive drugs which have been recommended by NICE for their cost-effectiveness.
It is hoped that with the establishment of such funds, the lives of a large part of the population will improve where they may have lacked treatment before.
For those living with rare diseases, approving treatments for a rare disease can be complex, as the number of patients affected by a single rare disease is small.
With the IMF, this could be improved by giving patients the opportunity to have promising treatments expedited, which could in turn increase the data available to NICE for future treatment decisions.
Over the past year, NHS England has negotiated contracts for a range of new treatments, including Zolgensma for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Young children treated with the unique gene therapy, said to be ‘the most expensive drug in the world’ at a list price of £1.79million, have been given access to the drug through managed access agreements .
UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I want NHS patients to be the first in the world to access the most promising and breakthrough treatments that could prolong or save their lives.
“The launch of the Innovative Medicines Fund will accelerate access to cutting-edge medicines for adults and children, to give people hope for a better future.”