Terminally ill patients gain early access to pioneering drugs

Gazette Series: MP for the Cotswolds Geoffrey Clifton-Brown at the Early Access to Medicines event (5010910) MP for the Cotswolds Geoffrey Clifton-Brown at the Early Access to Medicines event (5010910)

MP for the Cotswolds Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has celebrated the introduction of a scheme to help terminally ill patients get access to pioneering medical treatments.

The Government has announced its new Early Access to Medicines scheme, in which doctors will work with patients to make innovative and promising drugs available sooner than before.

Mr Clifton-Brown attended an event in the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 25 to launch the new scheme, which encapsulates some of the ideas he has been campaigning for on behalf of his late constituent, Les Halpin, who died at the end of 2013 from Motor Neurone disease.

Speaking after the event, Mr Clifton-Brown said he was delighted severely ill patients would be offered the lifeline of trying experimental medicines years before they would normally reach the market.

“This is clearly a win win situation," he said. "It is a win for patients with terminal illnesses and gives them the hope that access to drugs will speed up for their often quite rare conditions. It is a win for clinicians in that they should have a wider range of drugs to treat those patients and it is a win for the drug companies because the period between development and use by patients should now be considerably shorter in the UK."

He said he had high hopes for the scheme and that the launch event had been a fitting tribute to his friend Mr Halpin's legacy and the successes of the campaign.

As soon as an initial scientific assessment from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has signalled that the benefits of a new drug outweigh the risks, terminally ill patients will be able to access cutting-edge medicines at a time when existing treatments may have been exhausted.

Professor Stephen Hawking provided a message of support for the campaign which Mr Clifton-Brown read out during the event.

Professor Hawking said: "True innovation exists at the frontiers of scientific endeavour - this is as true for medicine as it is for physics.

"Clinicians and pharmacists must be allowed the space to strive for new discoveries with the support of systems that allow responsible innovation.

"The time has come for medical regulation to match modern medicine.”

The scheme will be formally launched in April.

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