The Scottish government has announced a doubling of funding this year, from £20 million to £40 million, to improve patient access to new medicines.

The money will be made available through the newly-established New Medicines Fund, which expands and replaces the Rare Conditions Medicines Fund set up in March 2013. It will help health boards access to greater resources to fund the cost of new drugs, and complements changes made to the way the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) assesses medicines.

The new Fund is being financed by the rebate made to the Scottish government by the pharmaceutical industry under the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) and, in keeping with the established plan for the Rare Conditions Fund, it will also be maintained in 2015/16. Patients who have benefited from the Rare Conditions Fund – which in 2013/14 supported the cost of 45 different drugs, benefitting over 200 patients – will continue to be supported within the new arrangements.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the Scottish Parliament has considered the issue of access to new medicines very carefully in the last 18 months, and there was a clear consensus that steps should be taken to improve access to new medicines for rare conditions and for people with terminal illnesses.

“That’s why I tasked the SMC to develop new ways to ensure the voices of patients and clinicians were better heard in the new medicines approval process, and to ensure that access was improved to medicines for rare and end-of-life conditions. The SMC have now started to implement these changes and we will be closely monitoring them to determine if any further action is needed in the future,” said Mr Neil.

“The dedicated £40 million New Medicines Fund will complement these changes, and will help ensure that more patients get access to the latest medicines as quickly as possible,” he added.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said it welcomed the Scottish government’s utilisation of the industry’s PPRS payments to ensure patients have access to new medicines through the new Fund.

“We firmly believe that it will have a positive impact on the lives of Scottish people,” said ABPI Scotland director Andrew Powrie-Smith.

“In the PPRS agreement, industry has agreed to do its part by keeping NHS expenditure on branded medicines across the UK flat for two years, with the industry underwriting any further expenditure by the NHS within agreed boundaries, and I am glad to see that the Scottish government are leading the way in re-investing money from PPRS in new medicines,” he said.

And a leading patient representative described the doubling of funding to support patients needing access to new and rare medicines, together with the commitment to extend the fund in 2015/16, as “fantastic news.”

“Advances in research are creating new hope for patients with incurable rare diseases. Without funding, this hope will be frustrated,” said Alastair Kent, director of Genetic Alliance UK.

“We hope that the rules for accessing this new funding will be simple, widely disseminated and speedy in their operation,” he added