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Drug access

Support for Bill to allow terminal cancer patients access to drugs in development

The UK government backs a private members bill allowing doctors to prescribe untested drugs on terminally ill patients.

Source: bms-photo / Shutterstock.com

The Medical Innovation Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 24 October 2014

A Private Members Bill that seeks to allow doctors to prescribe investigational drugs to terminally ill cancer patients has won government backing.

The Medical Innovation Bill, put forward by Lord Saatchi, will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 24 October 2014.

It won government support after Saatchi added an amendment that would require the patient’s doctor to seek the support of an independent specialist in his or her prescribing decision.

Although the Bill applies only to cancer treatments in development that may cure, alleviate or prevent a deterioration in the disease, there is an option for the Secretary of State to extend it to other diseases in the future.

“Innovation is at the heart of modernising the NHS and is essential for improving treatments and finding new cures,” says a Department of Health spokesperson. “Work on the Medical Innovation Bill is ongoing and we are pleased that Lord Saatchi has tabled amendments to the Bill to help ensure patient and staff safety.”

Saatchi has had an interest in reform since his wife Josephine Hart died from ovarian cancer in 2011.

If the Bill is passed, it will be in line with the recent decision by the World Health Organization that it was ethical to allow drugs in development to be used to treat or prevent Ebola.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20066920

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