UK government starts review to speed patient access to cost-effective, innovative drugs

The UK government on Thursday outlined plans for a review designed to find ways to speed up patient access to cost-effective and innovative medicines, medical devices and diagnostics. The Innovative Medicines and MedTech Review will examine how new approaches to development, as well as more collaborative work between companies and regulators, could boost access to innovative products for NHS patients.

The UK government indicated that it takes on average more than 10 years and 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) to develop a new drug, although a recent study suggested that the true cost of developing and launching a medicine is nearly $2.6 billion. The UK government indicated that a new approach "could significantly reduce the time it takes to develop new medicines, devices and diagnostics."

In September, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence called for a review of the procedures for the development of drugs and their entry into the NHS. Commenting on the announcement, NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon remarked "we're delighted to see the government is ambitious about accelerating the development and adoption of new medicines and other health technologies," adding "this review provides the opportunity to think carefully about how together we can work through the NHS to deliver the greatest benefit."

Meanwhile, Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, commented "we have long called for such an initiative in response to increasing evidence of the need for a holistic approach to UK life sciences." The executive described the plans as "a big step in the right direction," but called on NICE to adjust the way it assesses new products "and align with the changing regulatory model."

In addition, new investment in the country's life sciences sector was announced, including 42 million pounds ($66 million) from Merck & Co. to create a new licensing hub in London, expanding research at its Hertfordshire headquarters and funding clinical research in oncology and dementia. Merck president of global human health Adam Schechter stated "we firmly believe the opportunities for partnership and collaboration in this area will continue to grow."

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