The United Kingdom’s (UK) life-sciences industry this week welcomed a new, multimillion-pound strategy that aims to both support the industry and encourage innovation in the unsettled economic climate. The UK government has published two reports: the Life Sciences Strategy and the National Health Service (NHS) Chief Executive Review of Innovation. According to a press statement, the measures bring together the country’s science base and NHS to “ensure the UK is the best place in the world for companies to invest in the discovery, development and commercialization of medical innovations.”
Key measures outlined by the government in the Life Sciences Strategy include:
- The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will bring forward consultation proposals for a new Early Access Scheme to accelerate routes to market approval for breakthrough therapies.
- The government will invest more than £300 million ($469 million) to support R&D, including £130 million ($203 million) for stratified medicine and £180 million ($281.5 million) for a biomedical catalyst fund.
- The government will consult on an amendment to the NHS constitution that will open up patient data for clinical research.
- A national “Bioresource” will become a “go-to” place for experimental medicine.
- Through the MHRA, the government will work with industry and international regulators to help create a more enabling regulatory environment for the adoption of innovative manufacturing technology.
- A web-based UK clinical trials gateway will be relaunched in March 2012, which will provide authoritative and accessible information about clinical trials in the UK.
“The Prime Minister has identified the life-sciences sector as an integral part of the UK economy and one which can continue to thrive and prosper if supported in the right way,” Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said in a statement. “The proposals outlined by the government will contribute towards patients receiving better treatments, more quickly, and build the UK’s attractiveness as a leading hub for medical and health research.”
The government also announced this week a review of innovation in the NHS, which may affect the life-sciences sector. Sir Ian Carruthers, chief executive of the NHS South of England, explained that several key themes emerged from the review including the need to reduce variation in the NHS and to improve compliance with the UK’s medicines price regulatory body, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). At the moment, medicines that are approved by NICE may not always be available in all parts of England and Wales.
“We are committed to ensuring that NHS patients have access to clinically and cost-effective drugs and technologies, and that NICE appraisal guidance is promptly delivered throughout the NHS,” said the review. “There should be no local barriers to accessing technologies recommended in NICE appraisals.”
Whitehead added: “We welcome the introduction of a NICE compliance regime to reduce variation of medicines uptake, increase compliance with NICE technology appraisals, and ensure rapid and consistent implementation throughout the NHS... We are also pleased that Government will be opening up access to public datasets including health data on prescribing, with appropriate protection for patient confidentiality. This will allow Life Science firms to better understand how patients respond to particular treatments, which in turn will further aid companies’ research and development efforts.”