NHS sets aside £340m for new Innovative Medicines Fund

NHS England has matched its financial backing of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) with an equivalent pot of money for a new Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF) that will provide early access to cutting-edge medicines like cell and gene therapies.

It has proposed that the IMF will work in the same way as the CDF, funding treatment with new therapies during an interim period where there is an expectation that ongoing studies will provide further insights into their clinical value and cost-effectiveness.

The new instrument will start with £340 million (around $470 million) in funding – the same as the recently reformed CDF – and will operate as an extension to the cancer programme, according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid. That is more than was originally anticipated when the concept of the IMF was first unveiled in 2019.

The move should mean that that drugs outside oncology which offer life-saving benefits – particularly for less common diseases where data collection on medicines effectiveness take longer to obtain due to the smaller patient cohort – can be made available to some patients earlier.

The CDF has proved to be a key enabler for market access for cancer drugs, unlocking access to new therapies for tens of thousands of patients over the years. Many of those therapies – although not all – have gone on to get routine NHS commissioning, although often with a hefty price cut.

The IMF proposal is still out for consultation so has not been finalised, and NHS England said it will be discussing its plan with patient groups, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders in the next few weeks.

An estimated one in 17 people will be affected by a rare disease in their lifetime, it added, and the IMF will fast-track patient access to treatments which can demonstrate “substantial” clinical promise but still have uncertainty around their clinical and cost effectiveness.

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said that the IMF can build on the success of the CDF “and provide an opportunity for all patients to benefit early from the most promising treatments – including those for the rarest conditions.”

He added: “It also sends a signal to the global pharmaceutical industry that the UK is serious about using new health technologies, which in turn could help drive investment into UK life sciences.”

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