Last week, the minister for life sciences, George Freeman, announced a review to consider how to speed up patient access to new medicines and other technologies. It will be undertaken by an independent organisation and look at the pathway for the development and uptake of new medicines, diagnostics and devices, from first in man trials to use in the clinic. The announcement has been welcomed by the research community but we are still waiting to see many details.
What will the review do?
There's no terms of reference at the moment so we don't know exactly what the review will look at. But from what we have been told so far, it looks like this review is going to be wide-ranging in its remit. In his written statement to the House of Commons, George Freeman said:
The review will consider how to speed up access for NHS patients to cost-effective new diagnostics, medicines and devices. It will focus on innovative types of product: in particular, drugs based on stratified medicine, new diagnostics, and digital health technologies. It will examine the pathway from ‘ first in human’ trials, through licensing and health technology appraisal, to commissioning, reimbursement and clinical practice. It will set out both short and long-term options for action by Government and relevant bodies (including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and NHS England).
The government will commission an external organisation to do the review. Crucially, this means it will not be disrupted by the general election. There is no official timetable as yet but it is expected to launch officially in the early New Year with a call for evidence, and then report in the summer to the new government.
Speaking at AMRC’s annual conference on the day of the announcement, George Freeman said that he wants charities to be at the top table of policy development and he hopes charities and patients will feed into the review.
How has the research community responded?
Talking to The Times, our chief executive, Aisling Burnand, welcomed the announcement saying:
The vision is right in terms of trying to get promising compounds into patients quicker. Patients do want faster access to innovative medicines that are going to enhance their life or even save it. At the moment there are barriers in the way that slow things down.
It has also been welcomed by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (who also had some pretty interesting findings of their own on NHS innovation to report), the BioIndustry Association, NICE, and many others. The Times also did an editorial on the news.
What will AMRC be doing?
AMRC will be responding on behalf of our sector and I’m sure many members will be submitting their own responses too. We addressed many of the barriers that George Freeman has said will be covered by the review In Our vision for research in the NHS. There has been a lot of progress made since we published our vision in 2013 but there is still a lot left to do too, so it will be an excellent starting point to help shape our thinking. When further details and the call for evidence is announced in early 2015 we will be get in touch with our members to ask them to help shape our submission.