• The deal could benefit more than 4,000 people
  • NHS England has faced criticism over protracted negotiations with pharma company Vertex
  • Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed

A deal has been struck to make a life-extending cystic fibrosis drug available on the NHS for the first time.

NHS England has been engaged in heated and heavily scrutinised negotiations over the price of Orkambi and two other drugs with pharma company Vertex.

Of more than 8,000 people living with CF in England, roughly 4,300 could benefit from the drugs, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Under the new deal, patient numbers for the three drugs will be uncapped.

As well as Orkambi, it covers Kalydeco (also known as Ivacaftor), which is already available on the NHS, and Symkevi, which gained European marketing authorisation in October last year.

Doctors will be able to prescribe the drugs under the new terms within 30 days, according to NHS England.

Orkambi, which improves lung function and reduces breathing difficulties, was licensed for use in the UK in 2015. It targets the underlying genetic cause of some CF mutations.

NHS England has faced criticism over protracted negotiations for the drug, given its 2016 commitment to offering personalisation in medicine.

Under the agreement, it will be available for current licensed indications and possible future license extensions.

Specific financial details for the new deal have not been released, but health and social care secretary Matt Hancock described it as “great value for money.”

Last year, the regulator published what it called a “final offer” to Vertex, under which it would pay £100m annually for five years for the three drugs.

The NHS in Wales and Northern Ireland will be offered equivalent pricing terms as NHS England, according to a letter from Simon Stevens to the chair of the health and social care select committee, Sarah Wollaston.

The Scottish government recently reached its own deal with Vertex to treat 350 people eligible for the drug. Although Scotland won’t be guaranteed the deal agreed with NHS England, officials will be shown its confidential terms.

In a statement, Mr Stevens said: “The UK has the second highest prevalence of cystic fibrosis of any country in the world, so today is an important and long hoped for moment for children and adults living with cystic fibrosis.

“That fact also means that any drug company wanting to succeed commercially in this field needs to work constructively with the NHS.”

Chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust David Ramsden said: “This is a very special day and I want to thank people with cystic fibrosis, their families and everyone who has been part of this campaign for their persistence and determination to keep on fighting.”