Early Access To Medicines Scheme Confirmed By Government

System To Improve Availability Of Innovative New Drugs

03.04.2014

The Government has confirmed the launch of the Early Access to Medicines Scheme, which has been created to ensure seriously ill patients are able to get access to groundbreaking new medicines quicker.

Under the terms of the scheme, doctors will work with patients to make access to innovative and promising drugs available as soon as the UK regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency – has given them approval in an initial assessment.

According to the Government, the scheme will not only be beneficial to patients but also to the pharmaceutical sector, which will be able to gain more experience of how their drugs are used within the NHS and work more closely with regulators.
 
Alongside the scheme, the Department of Health has created a bank of medical research volunteers, with the hope that researchers will be able to recruit patients with specific conditions into their work and trials.

Lord Howe has stated “Through the scheme, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will provide a scientific opinion on promising new, unlicensed or off-label medicines to treat, diagnose or prevent life threatening or seriously debilitating conditions which do not have adequate treatment options.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said: “Making Britain the best place in the world for science, research and development is a central part of our long term economic plan.

“This ground-breaking scheme will provide cutting edge medicines earlier, give hope to patients and their families and save lives.”

Other organisations to back the scheme including Cancer Research UK and Empower: Access to Medicine, with the latter describing the move as a “significant  step forward” to ensure patients can access treatments.

Expert Opinion
We have been involved in numerous cases when patients in desperate need of new drugs and treatments have been forced to pursue legal battles in order to gain access to them.

"While the Government is right to highlight the impact this new scheme could have on the NHS, the pharmaceutical sector, and patients, it is vital that the interests of the latter always come first. The medicines and treatments must be approved by the health regulatory bodies to ensure appropriate attention is given to patient safety."
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate