Boris Johnson has announced that, if re-elected, the Conservatives would launch a £500m fund to give patients “quicker access to the most cutting-edge medicines for cancer and other diseases”.
The new Innovative Medicines Fund would replace the Cancer Drugs Fund, due to end next year, which was originally set up in 2010 to provide extra funding for medicines considered too expensive under the usual formula for judging value for money in the NHS.
The pharma industry has long complained about the “low and slow” uptake of innovative drugs by the taxpayer-funded National Health Service, with drugs reviewed for cost-effectiveness by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
The Conservatives said the UK already had “a world-leading approach to access to medicines and treatments”, and through the existing NICE processes had brought life-saving drugs such as Orkambi, for cystic fibrosis, and Spinraza, for spinal muscular atrophy, to patients.
But it could sometimes take too long for the most innovative medicines to be adopted, the party said. The new entity would have increased funding and be expanded to cover more diseases, “giving patients faster access to the latest medicines and treatments which currently struggle to be adopted by the NHS”.
Mr Johnson said the Cancer Drugs Fund had helped thousands of patients gain access to drugs for which they would otherwise have had to wait “and as illnesses become more complex and new drugs are developed we should make sure the NHS can have access to the most innovative medicines”.
The new fund “means that the new drugs our brilliant life sciences industry is currently developing — for Alzheimer’s, motor neurone and Parkinson’s disease and cancer — will be made available to patients across the country faster,” the prime minister added.
One of Britain’s biggest drugmakers, GlaxoSmithKline, said: “We will look at the details, but we welcome proposals such as this that could enable UK patients to have faster access to innovative medicines.”