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Fast-tracked medication and trials for severely ill patients after Gloucestershire man's campaign

By Michael_Yong  |  Posted: March 14, 2014

Les Halpin

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New medicines which could help treat serious illnesses will be fast-tracked to patients, thanks to the work of a Gloucestershire campaigner.

Les Halpin, from Tetbury, was a motor neurone disease sufferer who campaigned for years for patients to have access to medication before they were normally licenced.

Founder of Empower: Access to Medicine, Les fought to allow patients the right to make their informed choices about the risk of participation with clinical trials or taking drugs.

He sadly died last September, but yesterday, his campaign took a huge step towards his dream.

The Government has announced a new scheme to offer severely ill patients with life-threatening and seriously debilitating conditions the lifeline of trying ground-breaking new medicines years before they go through the normal licensing process, which could take years.

Companies will be able to gain experience of their medicines being used in the NHS and work closely with regulators to look at the value of the drugs, gaining guidance and advice much earlier in the regulatory process.

Les’s wife, Claire, said: “There is no question that Les, my husband and founder of Empower: Access to Medicine campaign, would have recognised this significant step forward on the road to ensure those patients in desperate need have the opportunity to access treatment they could not in the past.

“We welcome this announcement and look forward to working with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to make sure this scheme truly works for those with life-threatening illnesses and unmet clinical need.

“Many of these patients do not have the luxury of time.”

The scheme will be funded by pharmaceutical companies which develop new treatments, at no cost to the NHS.

The process of the patient access will be speeded up and new drugs could be made available to patients years before treatment is licenced.

Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who was one of the earliest supporters of the campaign, hailed the campaign.

“Les asked me to spearhead a campaign to persuade the Government to allow terminally ill patients the chance to participate in early trials for new medicines,” Mr Clifton-Brown said.

“I am delighted that the campaign appears to have succeeded with the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt.

“This is clearly a win-win situation. It is a win for patients with terminal illnesses and gives them the hope that access to drugs will speed up for their often quite rare conditions.

“It is a win for clinicians in that they should have a wider range of drugs to treat those patients, and it is a win for the drug companies because the period between development and use by patients should now be considerably shorter in the UK.”

The scheme will come into effect this April.

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