A new £80 million fund designed to help accelerate access to treatments for patients with life-threatening illnesses in Wales has now been confirmed by the Welsh government.
The new treatment fund is intended to support the early introduction of the most innovative, high-cost medicines recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG).
"The increasing demand for healthcare and emergence of often high-cost medicines places a responsibility on us to ensure our limited resources are invested where the proven benefit is in balance with the cost," said Vaughan Gething, cabinet secretary for health, sport and wellbeing.
"It is essential the fund is operated transparently and is widely understood. During the summer we will be working hard to define the criteria and mechanisms that will be needed to manage the fund effectively".
The Cabinet Secretary also announced an independent review of the Individual Patient Funding Request (IPFR) process in Wales, under which patients apply for funding for treatments not routinely available on the NHS. The review will look at the clinical criteria used to determine eligibility for access to such treatments.
"It's good to see Welsh Government being open in their approach to tackling some of the inconsistencies patient campaigners have identified with the current process of high cost drug funding in Wales," noted Jon Antoniazzi, policy officer for Tenovus Cancer Care. On the IPFR review, he said: "IPFR needs to be made easier to understand and have the trust of clinicians and patients accessing treatments through it".
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has also welcomed the move. Rick Greville, director of the Association's Welsh arm, said: "The intentions of the Welsh Government to financially support the introduction and use of medicines with a proven evidence base is both re-assuring and progressive".
"The confirmed investment of £80m, over the life of this government, to support the early introduction of the newest and most innovative medicines recommended by NICE or AWMSG has the potential to make significant life-changing improvements for patients in Wales".
"We understand the challenges faced by NHS Wales to plan and prioritise expenditure on newer medicines and we are hopeful that NHS Wales will maximise the opportunity this early funding stream will offer."