Patients who are critically ill with life-threatening diseases will soon be able to obtain new drugs many years before they would become available through a scheme supported by the Government.
This fast-tracking scheme will offer patients hope. It will also boost the pharmaceutical industry in Britain.
Companies who have a treatment it believes to be adequate will be able to obtain provisional approval to provide the patient with the drug. The approval will only be made available if the company can show that it may be a good treatment option and that it is safe to use. Only once these criteria have been met will NHS doctors be able to offer it to their patients by prescription.
The costs will be carried by the company concerned. However, they will have the opportunity to collect data for use when they finally apply for a full licence to sell the drug worldwide.
The UK has become one of the least favorite locations for development and trial of new drugs by the major drug companies. This scheme offers the country a boost in this realm.
To become eligible for this scheme, patients are required to join one of the clinical trials. However, not everyone will be eligible. Eligibility criteria include age and the type of disease. The one problem patients may face is the delay between the termination of the clinical trials and when the licence is finally granted. During this period of time, the drug may not be available to patients.
The Chief Executive of Cancer Research, Harpal Kumar, has welcomed this new scheme. He has stated that due to the time constraints advanced cancer patients face, this scheme could be the difference between life and death as it brings the drugs to the patients quicker.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry also welcomed the scheme. However, it is not happy about the decision to have the companies carry the costs for the drugs. The scheme being unfunded means that the companies have to bear upfront investment costs to participate.
Image credit: Melanie Tata