One of our primary goals at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is to get innovative new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.
The Accelerated Access Review (AAR), published in October 2016, has therefore always been a strong source of interest for us.
This week saw the release of the Government’s response to the report, detailing how its recommendations will be implemented in the UK. But what does this mean for cancer patients?
What is the Accelerated Access Review?
The Government commissioned the review to develop ways of making the most innovative and effective medicines, diagnostics and medical technologies available on the NHS more quickly.
A number of factors can delay innovative products becoming available on the NHS, including the need for incentives to conduct early research on novel targets, the time taken to conduct clinical trials and the licensing and approval processes needed to bring a drug to market and have it subsequently approved for use in the NHS.
The AAR contained 18 recommendations to address some of the issues that lead to this delay. In its latest report, the Government has widely welcomed the recommendations of the review, acknowledging that there is a compelling case for improving the systems that accelerate access to the market.
They highlight the need for a system that maximises the use of innovative products and set out a plan for implementation of the recommendations of the AAR across the UK.
See our related news story that gives the ICR response to the Government report produced following the Accelerated Access Review.
Getting innovation into the NHS faster
A key recommendation from the review is a new Accelerated Access Pathway - a specialised system to streamline regulatory and market access decisions for ‘breakthrough’ products. This pathway will launch in April 2018.
It will focus on affordable medicines or technologies which can dramatically improve efficiency, fill an unmet need or make a step-change in patient outcomes.
The scheme aims to be cost-neutral to the NHS, with technologies that cost the NHS money balanced by those that offer substantial efficiency savings.
New technologies will be selected by a collaboration of the UK organisations currently responsible for regulating, evaluating and delivering new innovations to patients.
These will include organisations such as such as NICE and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in collaboration with Government bodies and the NHS. The group will be chaired by Sir Andrew Witty, the former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.
What does this mean for cancer patients?
It is encouraging to see the Government devising new ways of getting the most beneficial medical technologies to patients. The whole tone of the report is positive about innovation, and the key role that innovative treatments play in improving outcomes for people with cancer.
The ICR have consistently called for more streamlined and transparent systems for getting treatments to patients and this is an important step forward in making this a reality.
It is also great to see patient groups having a direct influence on what will be available through the pathway, ensuring that innovative products benefit patients in meaningful ways.
Unfortunately, at the moment the scheme is predicted to apply to only five products per year. And this covers everything from new medicines and diagnostics to other forms of medical technology including innovative digital products, across a wide range of disease areas.
We hope of course that some innovative new cancer treatments will be included among the five products – but there is no guarantee of that. There remains a need for wider change to the whole system of drug discovery, development and approval – to make it easier for innovative new treatments to reach patients across the board.
Despite its currently limited scope, it is good to see the Government supporting ways to bring exciting new treatments to patients.
Implementing the plans from the Accelerated Access Review was also a vital component of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy – the vision to create a world-leading life-science sector with the NHS at its heart.
The review opens up opportunities not only for the NHS and patients, but also for researchers to ensure our research benefits society more quickly.
I hope as the scheme is rolled out, the Government is able to identify any successes and implement them more widely.
To have a real impact on healthcare in the UK, we need to be streamlining processes for all innovative new treatments, not just a select few.
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