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Westminster Hall Debate - Access to medicine for people with terminal illnesses

Westminster Hall Debate - Access to medicine for people with terminal illnesses

Westminster Hall Debate - Access to medicine for people with terminal illnesses - Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP

On Wednesday 23rd January Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP led a debate in Westminster Hall, in the House of Commons, at 09:30. You can watch the debate in full on Parliament TV (requires Windows Media Player) or read here.

This followed an interview with the founder of Empower: Access to Medicine, Les Halpin, and a live interview with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. You can hear the full interview here, tune in at 1:10:30 to 1:18:00.

In an impassioned speech Mr Clifton-Brown laid out the challenges of drug approval and the stark fact that there has been no new drug developed for Motor Neurone Disease in 20 years.

He went on to discuss the risk aversion of pharmaceutical companies in developing new drugs due to the complicated litigation (strict liability) that stifles innovation. Concurring with Professor Sir Peter Lachmann he outlined steps the Government could take to speed up the drug approval process and free up innovation in the industry.

Mr Clifton-Brown called on the Government to provide an update on their plans for introducing adaptive licensing (a streamlined approach to drug approval) and the UK’s bid to be the host for an EU pilot scheme.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown also made specific reference to a recent report by the House of Commons Health Select Committee on Government plans for ‘value base pricing’ of drugs and a public consultation on the NHS Constitution.

The on-going consultation to the NHS Constitution is another opportunity to strengthen patient rights and enshrine them in law. In particular I would urge the Government to seize the opportunity given by this consultation to give more weight to individual patients’ choices and allow them greater freedom to determine what existing and new medical treatments they undertake.

The Debate

In the ensuing debate there were interventions from Jim Shannon MP (DUP) who discussed the importance of involving patients’ families in treatment decisions. He expressed concern that regulation was slowing down the drug development process and that options to free up this process should be pursued – “we can make a change that will bring hope instead of despair."

John Pugh MP (Lib Dem) supported calls for more transparency in relation to drug trial data, emphasising that companies should be obliged to “sign post dead ends” they have encountered in the drug development process.

Jamie Reed MP, Shadow Minister for Health, praised Les’s work and the campaign in highlighting the issue. Whilst supporting the notion that patients should have a greater role in their treatment he acknowledged that the system will take “years to change.”

Minister’s Response

Anna Soubry, Health Minister, began by praising Geoffrey Clifton-Brown for securing the debate and her gratitude that the issue was on the agenda of other MPs:

I do hope Mr Halpin can watch this debate and I know him and many others will want to read this debate. And I think, if I may say, that this is an example of Parliament at its absolute best […] if only the press would come along and listen to these types of debates on really important issues

Ms Soubry explained that “the life sciences world is undergoing big change” and that the “ongoing work on stratified medicines (large patient groups) will improve our understanding” of drug effectiveness.
In her concluding remarks the Minister committed the Government to increasing access to drugs for the patients who most need them:

I do understand the development of new drugs for life threatening diseases is vitally important. And it’s important to this Coalition Government. I hope I’ve been able to demonstrate the breadth of the work being undertaken to improve access to new and existing medicines for NHS patients and to encourage the development of new drugs to treat life-threatening diseases. But I can assure my honourable friend the member for the Cotswolds and others that the Government’s priority is to make sure that NHS patients are able to access the most appropriate treatments to treat and manage their condition.”

The Adjournment Debate

The adjournment debate took place in Westminster Hall at 09.30 on Wednesday 23rd January.

For more information about the campaign, visit and follow on Twitter @empoweratm


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  • I really admire Les Halpin for all his efforts.  My husband has been diagnosed with MND and I was devastated to learn that there has been no progress in finding a helpful drug for this dreadful illness.  There are many people suffering with this condition, it is apparently not that rare and I can only hope that this debate will speed up the necessary research so that a cure can be found soon.  Obviously this will depend on the government agreeing to fund this.  Hopefully this will happen.

    Joy Cook 27-01-13 4:24pm

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