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Cotswolds MP urges government to speed up access to drugs for terminally ill

By laura_enfield  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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MINISTERS have been urged by a Gloucestershire MP to speed up access to drugs for people who are terminally-ill.

Speaking at Westminster, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown for the Cotswolds told the Government the testing and development of medicines is "too long, cumbersome and expensive".

He pointed out it can take more than a decade and cost more than £1 billion to bring a new drug to market.

The MP put forward a series of legal changes aimed at speeding up the process.

He secured the parliamentary debate in response to a campaign launched by one of his constituents Les Halpin, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2011.

The 55-year-old statistician from near Tetbury argues the fear of legal action drives the regulation of drugs and this could be removed by changing the Consumer Protection Act.

He says this would see the patient assuming the risk of taking a medicine that had not been fully tested.

MND is a progressive condition that damages the nervous system, leaving muscles wasted and weak.

The average life expectancy of sufferers is between two and five years, although some people have lived with MND for decades such as the physicist Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with the disease more than 40 years ago.

No new drugs have been approved for MND for 20 years.

Opening his debate Mr Clifton-Brown told MPs: "Ensuring that people with a terminal illness have access to medicine should concern us all.

"It is unacceptable that so many people, when they are diagnosed with an illness, find that no drugs are available to help them to overcome their condition.

"The current testing and development process is too long, cumbersome and expensive.

"Reform of how we develop, test and approve drugs is therefore crucial."

Mr Clifton-Brown added: "The real kernel of the debate is that we address the risk aversion that can too often hold back the development of a new drug.

"The MP proposed a number of measures including scrapping "strict liability" in the area of drug development, revising the definition of negligence to take account of the consequences of doing nothing and change the law on waivers so patients who are prepared to try a new drug can do so.

No win, no fee arrangements should also be scrapped in this area, he argued.

Health Minister Anna Soubry said; "I understand that the development of new drugs for rare and life-threatening diseases is vital, and it is important to the coalition Government.

"I can assure him and others that the Government's priority is to ensure that NHS patients are able to access the most appropriate treatments to treat and manage their conditions."

Speaking afterwards Mr Clifton-Brown said: "We will keep up the pressure. This is a big campaign."

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