Britain´s Prime Minister has promoted the use of new medicines and has also allotted $280 million (180 million pounds) to bring modern technologies to market with the goal of luring in big pharmaceutical companies.
In a text slated to be given as a speech later today, Prime Minister David Cameron calls for the funds to be used to boost Britain´s $75-million life sciences industry. “The most crucial, fundamental thing we´re doing is opening up the National Health Society (NHS) to new ideas. The end-game is for the NHS to be working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world, acting as a huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food-chain – from the labs to the boardrooms to the hospital bed,” he will say in his speech.
Drug companies have complained for years, saying Britain has been slow to adopt new medicines and use them in the state-funded NHS.
“Above all, there should be a very clear route from the idea in the publicly supported research lab, through to the application in the patient in the publicly-supported NHS. That is the way to get the businesses to grow for the future and, of course, it is the best thing for patients as well,” Science minister David Willetts told BBC radio.
Cameron will outline two areas where the funds will be implemented. The “Biomedical Catalyst fund” will be open to universities and small and medium-sized enterprises; while an “early access scheme” will be set up under which seriously ill patients could use new drugs up to a year before they are fully licensed.
“Patients are having to wait too long for new medicines because of the lengthy and extremely costly process for gaining full regulatory approval,” Richard Barker, director of the Center for Accelerating Medical Innovations, said in response to the government´s announcement. “Health systems ultimately have to pay for these costs in the price of new products. It makes sense for the UK, with its research strengths, respected regulators and major life science investments, to take a lead.”
Some concerns have arisen over at least one area of the new plan, which will be implemented to allow patient records and other NHS data to be shared with life sciences companies. Critics fear this could compromise patient confidentiality.
But Cameron will argue that giving researchers from private sector companies access to NHS data will make it easier for them to develop and test new drugs and treatments.
“The wealth of data collected by the NHS represents a vast and potentially very valuable resource that could be used to facilitate highly beneficial research. The concerns over privacy and confidentiality…are perhaps overblown,” said Sarah Chan, deputy director of Manchester University´s Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovations.
“As I understand it, the data that is to be released will be anonymized, and so cannot be used to target individual patients,” she added.
Britain has been particularly reliant on pharmaceutical firms for success in manufacturing. However, the industry has been under pressure in recent years and has been forced to make cuts.
Pfizer in February closed its research and development facility in southern England, resulting in more than 2,000 lost jobs. The move marked a sign of Britain´s vulnerability.
Willetts said while the Pfizer move was “certainly a wake-up call for us,” the government was now working hard to secure investment by contract research organizations who could continue to use the site and its facilities for scientific research.
A Deloitte and Thomson Reuters study, published last month, highlighted the productivity dilemma facing the pharmaceutical industry. The study found that investment returns from researching new drugs have fallen nearly 30 percent in the past year at the world´s 12 top pharmaceutical companies.
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