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The NHS chief executive has announced a new innovative medicines fund (IMF) and £680 million of ringfenced funding on Wednesday (July 21) that aims to benefit its patients from early access to potentially life-saving new medicines.

Along with the existing £340m Cancer Drugs Fund, which will be guaranteed its current funding levels, this new £340m initiative means a total of £680m of ringfenced NHS England funding will be available to deploy on fast-tracked drugs.

The IMF will build upon the success of the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), 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 NICE 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 which can demonstrate substantial clinical promise but still have significant uncertainty around their clinical and cost effectiveness and hence long term value for taxpayers.

NHS boss 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.”

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 NHS said: “The finalised fund will be subject to a formal public consultation in the next few weeks which will involve patient groups, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders.”

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