Friday 6th November
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker and I’d like to congratulate my honourable friend the member for Torfaen on bringing this important Bill before the House today. And can I also pay tribute to him for the huge amount of work he has done in pursuing this Bill – gathering a wealth of evidence, engaging widely with stakeholders from across the health sector and gaining a huge amount of support along the way both from within and outside this House.
I very much hope the Minister will note the breadth and depth of support that this Bill has generated – twelve medical research charities from a range of conditions have backed it, 41 leading clinicians have shown their support and leading sector bodies including the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Radiologists and the BMA have thrown their weight behind this Bill. And when such a distinguished collection of people and organisations all speak with one voice in support of a particular initiative, I think it is up to us as parliamentarians to take note and ensure that we engage with the issues in a serious manner.
Leading on from this Madam Deputy Speaker, I just want to touch on the positive impact that this Bill have in regards to medical research in this country. Britain is a world leader in the life sciences and I know there will be agreement on all sides of the House over the importance of us retaining that position. We have first-rate research centres, we are home to leading pharmaceutical companies and our medical research charities are funding pioneering work.
And it is this last point that I want to pick up on. This Bill, as I mentioned earlier, has the support of a huge number of leading medical research charities. And it is these charities that are leading the way in research on the use of repurposed drugs.
Medical research charities often step in to fund the riskier elements of drug development in the interests of the public and their donors. For example, they often make significant investments where there is no incentive for a pharmaceutical company to develop a treatment further, So, for example, a charity will often fund research to enable a drug to go from phase 2 to phase 3 clinical trials.
Many medical research charities fund research into new uses of existing drugs and have their own dedicated repurposing programmes. Given this significant investment from the sector and the important role that charities play in the medical research funding environment, it is essential that there is a route to market once these treatments have been proven to be effective through phase 3 clinical trials.
At present there is no clear route to market for off-patent drugs in new indications. This is due to a clear market failure in the system and this is exactly what the Bill before us today seeks to fix.
Repurposed drugs will play an increasingly important role in tackling some of the serious diseases we are talking about today. And – just as the Government sought through its Life Sciences Strategy – to create an environment in which the pharmaceutical industry could flourish, so too must we ensure that there are mechanisms in place which will enable us to fully realise the benefits of old drugs which have been proven to perform new tricks.
So, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am very supportive of this Bill. Because in addition to saving lives and saving money for the NHS, it will at the same time catalyse and bring to the fore, the amazing work being done in labs and hospitals across this county, ensuring that the link between the bench and the bedside remains strong. Let’s not miss the opportunity this Bill provides, to ensure, that patients gain the maximum benefit from the ground-breaking research being undertaken in this country.