NHS England has unveiled its new Innovative Medicines Fund (IMF), to ensure patients have early access to ‘potentially life-saving’ new treatments.

The IMF will be used to fast-track promising new drugs to the patients who need them, building upon the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

The new fund, however, will support patients with any condition, including those with rare and genetic diseases.

Through the IMF, these patients will gain early access to the most clinically promising treatments when further data is needed to support the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) final recommendations.

It will operate in the same way as the CDF, giving NICE another option aside from making an immediate decision about routine availability on the NHS for new drugs.

“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,” said Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS.

In a statement, NHS England said the new initiative will have £340m in funding, alongside the existing £340m CDF, meaning a total of £640m of ringfenced funding will be available to enable fast access to innovative drugs.

In response to the new IMF, the ABPI’s chief executive Richard Torbett commented: “This commitment from the government is another important step towards improving access to new medicines for NHS patients.”

“The fund can build on the success of the Cancer Drugs Fund and provide an opportunity for all patients to benefit early from the most promising treatments – including those for the rarest conditions. 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,” he added.