Legislation raised by a backbench MP may soon break into the bureaucratic rules which deny thousands of ill people access to lifesaving drug treatments.
Some of the treatments which could become available include effective, low-cost drugs which are able to reduce the risk of the development of breast cancer and its spread to other sections of the body.
At present, doctors are not allowed to use the treatments as its original license was issued for other uses and a new license has not been issued since it was discovered that the drug was effective in other treatments.
There is no department or organisation that carries responsibility for the resubmission of licensing for the new use of drugs. Pharmaceutical companies will not do this as there is no financial benefit to them to obtain a new license after the expiry of the patent.
Jonathan Evans, a Conservative MP, is submitting a private member’s bill requesting that the Department of Health obtain licences for off-patent drugs if there is sufficient evidence that it may be effective for a new use which was not anticipated during its initial development.
The Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC) has been pushing for the law to be changed as it believes that it will ‘revolutionise’ access to treatment for a range of medical issues. It gave reference to the ‘urgent’ case of chemoprevention drugs which are able to decrease the chances of breast cancer development in women who are at high risk by 33%. However, the drugs are not licensed for this purpose, even though the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have recommended it for this use. The BCC stated that almost 500000 females in England and Wales could benefit if the drugs were made available to them.
It is stated that around 34000 females in the UK would be eligible for off-patent bisphosphonate drugs on an annual basis. This drug reduces the risk of the spread of primary breast cancer to the bone by 34% in post-menopausal females and the risk of death from the cancer by 17%.
The head of policy and campaigns at Breast Cancer Campaign, Mia Rosenblatt, said that it is baffling that low-cost, effective treatments exist, but are not readily available to patients simply because of red tape. She stated that the bill is a simple and necessary method to address the problem of thousands of women being prevented from obtaining lifesaving drugs and that Jonathan Evans has the campaign’s full support to bring about a change.
Mr Evans said the bill is an opportunity to take advantage of treatments that exist which could be used positively in some other manner. He added that these low-cost treatments have been around for a while, but have the potential of transforming lives.
He said that he is very pleased to be put forward this bill to address the issue at hand and to be working with BCC to make sure that those affected by breast cancer and other medical conditions have their needs met.
The private member’s bill initiated by Mr Evans, a Cardiff North MP, has the chance to be debated in Parliament, however, it is not likely that it will become law unless it receives support from Government.
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