Early access to new and experimental drugs
By Liz Lockhart
Proposals have been unveiled this week by David Cameron which could see patients with serious forms of cancer and other illnesses being given early access to new and experimental drugs.
This ‘early access scheme’ could see those who have exhausted every other option being offered a ‘last chance’ through trying new drugs a year before they can be prescribed by GPs.
This proposal is one of several that the Government hopes will boost Britain’s healthcare industries. It also suggests that this will mean a better quality of life for many patients.
Currently, before drugs can be prescribed in Britain that must first be approved by either the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the UK watchdog, or by the European Medicine’s Evaluation Agency (EMEA) which regulates across the EU. Drugs then have to meet further approval criteria by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Earlier this week David Cameron said that this early access scheme could result in patient’s access to new drugs without having to undergo so many bureaucratic processes. He also announced a consultation which would pave the way for private healthcare firms to have access to NHS data on patients.
Opponents of the plans have warned that this move would put at risk the patients’ private medical records. However, ministers believe that working more closely with the industry will encourage innovation and benefit patients. These closer working links would include more clinical trials in NHS hospitals.
Opponents hope that if these proposals go ahead there will be total transparency in all sharing of medical records and also that ‘trial’ drugs will only be given with the total knowledge and approval of the patients.