New lifeline for patients as NHS gets £340m fund to provide faster access to latest drugs

The Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF) offers hope to people with rare illnesses and conditions for which there are currently few or no drugs, such as Alzheimer’s and Motor Neurone Disease. Doctors will be able to use the cash to purchase promising treatments as further real-world evidence is gathered on their effectiveness and value for money.

Patients will have faster access to the world’s newest drugs on the NHS thanks to a £340million scheme being launched today.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) previously had to fully appraise new medicines before they could be routinely used, often delaying their rollout for years.

But the NHS will now be able to use them while Nice considers whether they should be available long term, allowing patients to benefit straight away.

The IMF is an extension of the Cancer Drugs Fund, which has given more than 80,000 patients early access to revolutionary treatments over the past five years. It is hoped that widening access to include more diseases will ease pressure on the NHS and help reduce backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government has delivered another manifesto pledge by launching a £340million scheme granting patients faster access to the world’s newest drugs

Some of the cutting-edge drugs will be potentially life-saving, while others will help adults and children live longer, healthier lives.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘I want NHS patients to be the first in the world to access the most promising and revolutionary treatments that could extend or save their lives.

‘The launch of the IMF delivers another manifesto pledge and will fast-track cutting-edge medicines to adults and children to give people renewed hope for a better future.’

A total of £680million has been ring-fenced for the IMF and CDF, with the money split equally between the two.

All medicines deployed through the IMF and CDF will have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency after meeting high standards of safety and quality and will have been recommended as suitable for the IMF by Nice.

It often takes longer for pharmaceutical companies to collect data on a medicine’s clinical and cost effectiveness for rare diseases due to the smaller patient cohort.

Blake Dark, commercial medicines director at NHS England, said: ‘The NHS continues to be a pioneer in striking deals and rolling out the latest cutting-edge drugs and treatments. This new IMF will build on the success of the CDF, enabling more patients to benefit from early access to the most promising cancer and non-cancer medicines.’

Dr Samantha Roberts, chief executive of Nice, said: ‘I am delighted that Nice has been able to play a key role, alongside NHS England, to create this important new initiative.’ NHS England previously secured access to several innovative cancer medicines including ‘world-first’ or ‘first in Europe’ drug deals.

Richard Torbett, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: ‘If patients are to see maximum benefit, industry, the NHS and Nice will need to work closely to ensure there are no unnecessary barriers for medicines to enter it.’

Cancer ‘is twice as likely to return if you’re poor’

Cancer patients from poorer households are twice as likely to see the condition return, according to a study.

Experts said the cost of living crisis could leave thousands of cancer patients with worse chances of survival, as it makes it harder to afford carers, eat healthily or pay energy bills.

The University of Toronto study involved 555 people with head and neck cancer.

Two years after treatment, cancer had returned for a third of patients from households earning less than £19,000, compared with 12 per cent for those above £56,000. When the results were adjusted, it was twice as likely to recur in poorer patients.

Study author Dr Christopher Noel said the wealth disparity was ‘not only compromising their quality of life, it actually impacts their survival’.

Dr David Pinato, from Imperial College London, said: ‘I think the cost of living crisis in the UK will have an immediate impact on cancer patients.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government is ‘making progress towards ensuring better cancer outcomes’.

The findings were presented at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.

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