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5 new drugs to be fast-tracked each year for NHS availability

Tuesday 7th November 2017
The UK government will be supporting the fast-tracking of five new drugs or devices for NHS availability from April next year onwards. Image: artisteer via iStock
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The UK government has announced that it will be naming five new drugs or medical devices each year to be fast-tracked for availability on the NHS, beginning in April 2018.

A panel of experts led by Sir Andrew Witty, former head of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, will decide every 12 months which treatments and equipment will be made available to patients, based on a range of specific criteria.

Supporters of the proposals have welcomed the fact that NHS patients will have access to an extra five items each year that could help to save or at least lengthen their lives.

Yet some are worried that selecting only a few will mean many patients could be missing out on access to life-changing drugs, or those with certain illnesses will be left having to fund their own treatment.

Currently, it typically takes several years for a new pharmaceutical product to complete all of the required medical trials before it can be made officially available. The new process should see the chosen drugs made available four years earlier.

Companies will be given financial support from an £86 million government pot to help fast-track the development of their treatment and devices as part of the plans.

Overall, the reaction to the news has been largely positive, with Dr Richard Torbett, executive director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, stating: "This should benefit thousands of NHS patients, as well as delivering significant long-term savings for the health service if appropriate investment in these transformative therapies is made available."

However, some concerns still remain about the availability of drugs. Chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now Baroness Delyth Morgan commented: "We remain greatly concerned that new treatments given in combination will struggle to demonstrate cost-effectiveness at any price and it is disappointing that the opportunity to address this issue does not appear to have been taken."

Written by James Puckle

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