Government plan could see faster approvals for some promising new treatments

Cancer Research UK

Some promising medical treatments and technologies will be fast-tracked through regulatory approval under new plans.

The Accelerated Access Pathway (AAP) aims to speed up the time taken for around 5 new drugs or technologies each year to reach patients. In some cases this could mean they are available up to 4 years sooner than with the current system.

“A broad range of approaches are needed to improve access to a range of healthcare innovations in the UK." - Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK

Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s senior policy adviser, welcomed the announcement as good news for patients.

“In the past the NHS has struggled to adopt new innovations quickly, so we hope this new initiative will make a real impact and benefit patients,” she said. 

The plans follow recommendations made in October 2016 in response to a review commissioned by the Government. The AAP will give ‘breakthrough’ designation to some promising drugs and technologies to speed up clinical development and the NHS approval process. It will be introduced in April 2018.

Drugs and technologies face stringent trials and tests to prove they are safe, effective and provide value for money. But there are concerns among patient groups and charities that the process takes too long, that the NHS often pays more than it should for new treatments, or rejects them based on cost.

The AAP will provide support to generate data on effectiveness in patients, so-called ‘real-world data’, as well as in negotiating a financial deal. 

In return for the benefits of the AAP, the pharmaceutical industry will be expected to deliver drugs that are better value for the NHS.

“A broad range of approaches are needed to improve access to a range of healthcare innovations in the UK, including finding a way to afford those that provide the most value to patients and the NHS,” said Gray.

Sir Andrew Witty, former head of drug company GlaxoSmithKline, will chair the panel that decides which drugs and technologies should be chosen. But Gray added that more details were needed about how those decisions will be made, and how to ensure patients will be involved from start to finish. 

“Today’s plans don’t cover some of the recommendations from the review,” she said. “More needs to be done to improve research collaboration between the NHS and industry which is vital in getting the best treatments to patients as quickly as possible.”

Health minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy, said he wants the UK to be the best place in the world to develop new drugs and medical technology, but uptake in the NHS can be too slow.

He said: “Today’s new measures will not only benefit patients by improving how quickly and easily we can get innovative products from the lab to the bedside, but will guarantee future collaboration between the life sciences sector and the NHS post-Brexit – benefiting the British economy and creating jobs."