Funding doubled for drugs to help dying patients

PATIENTS suffering from rare and end-of-life conditions will be given extra hope as funding for new medicines has been doubled to £80 million.

The fund has helped more than 1,000 Scottish patients since it was established. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Scottish Government’s New Medicines Fund will have the extra cash this year to pay for rare or costly treatments for conditions such as cancer or cystic fibrosis which are not currently available on the NHS.

The fund, which was set up last year to expand and replace the Rare Conditions Medicines Fund, has helped more than 1,000 Scottish patients since it was established.

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Health secretary Shona Robison announced the funding yesterday on a visit to the Scottish Cystic Fibrosis Service at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.

She said: “For many patients, innovative treatments can extend their lives or improve the quality of the time they have left, and I am clear that we should be doing all we can to make these available.

“That is why I am announcing today that we will double the resources available to fund new medicines, committing £80m next year to support patients needing rare or end-of-life treatments.”

The fund also supports changes to the way the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) assesses medicines for use in NHS Scotland, which is resulting in an increasing number of treatments being approved for patients with very rare conditions or at end of life.

The news has been welcomed by campaigners, who have lobbied the government to support “life-changing” treatments for people with terminal illnesses.

Yvonne Hughes, public affairs officer for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “I believe this announcement will put at rest the minds of patients who were unsure of the future of the fund and, not only that, they can take comfort that the Scottish Government have paid attention and continue to support small patient populations, and those at end of life to receive drugs that really do make life-changing or life-extending improvements.”

James Jopling, director for Scotland of the Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, called for fairer access to effective medicines that have been rejected by the SMC for being too costly.

He added: “It’s vital the Scottish Government ensure that this increase in funding is made available for all patients who are dealing with rare diseases or those conditions that will sadly end their lives. In particular, we need to see fairer access to those high-cost but effective medicines rejected by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) because they aren’t currently considered ‘value for money’.

“Cost simply shouldn’t be an issue where we know there are treatments that could extend life. But in a public health system we accept that it always will be.”