I have started to receive campaign correspondence about the Off Patent Drugs Bill.
I am concerned that patients are not always accessing the most effective treatments and agree that there is a case to support trials for all patent drugs and I am supportive of this bill. However, I should highlight that doctors can already prescribe drugs outside of the terms of their licence, without needing to wait for a new licence, if they feel it is right for their patients.
Unfortunately, I had longstanding commitments in the constituency and wasl unable to attend the bill's second reading, however I hope you will find the following information on this matter from the Department of Health of interest:
Off-label drugs, which are drugs that are used for a purpose other than that they are specifically licenced for, can already be prescribed where there is robust evidence to support their use. Off-patent drugs, which are drugs whose patent has expired and so other manufacturers may have made generic or non-branded versions of the drug, are also widely used in the NHS at present. Legislation is not required to make this happen.
Existing legislation gives the NHS the flexibility to respond to the individual clinical needs of patients whilst also taking on board the latest research findings. Prescribing decisions should be a matter for doctors in discussion with their patients and guidance on this is available from a number of healthcare organisations.
In February, Government officials held an event for interested parties on this matter to discuss what action, short of legislation, could be taken to ensure that robust evidence about new uses for existing drugs is produced, distributed and then used to inform clinical decision making. Areas were identified which required improvement, including the mapping of clear pathways for those who want to "re-purpose" drugs. Officials have been engaging with interested parties to put this into practice.
The Government has also established the Accelerated Access Review which aims to develop ways to develop ways to speed up access to innovative drugs, devices and diagnostics for NHS patients in a cost-effective way.
There are systems in place to ensure that the NHS obtains the best value in purchasing medicines. The NHS tries to derive benefits from drugs coming off patent by ensuring that there is not excessive profiteering in the sector.