by GK Strategy 26th October, 2016
3 min read

Accelerating Patient Access to Meds and Tech

It’s here. Finally the long wait is over. The Government’s Accelerated Access Review (AAR) was published on Monday after months of delay. It aims to improve patient access to new medicine and technology, but will it?

The response has been pretty muted so far with interest in unwanted procedures, diabetes and the lack of social care funding hogging the news agenda, although many have welcomed the review. Lisa Anson, Country President for AstraZeneca UK and Ireland, is quoted in The Financial Times saying it could balance “affordability concerns with adequate reward for innovation and reducing commercial uncertainty”.

Big pharma, and biotech, will be delighted to hear about the focus on breakthrough designations for products (even if it’s only a handful each year) and getting input into the proposed Accelerated Access Partnership. Ditto the Strategic Commercial Unit proposed for NHS England as a focal point for more flexible pricing negotiations, streamlining routes to market, and NICE providing greater flexibility in producing their guidance and transparency around take up (which has not been delivered by the innovation scorecard).

The accelerated access pathway, which could save one third of the time it takes products to get to patients from 12 to 8 years, for example, could be good for getting patients what they need more quickly and improving outcomes, while also supporting the innovative companies wanting a return on their investment in R&D.

Setting up a digital health technology catalyst, similar to the successful Biomedical Catalyst, could help support funding of late stage testing of digital health products in the real world. There will also be a beefed up role for the Academic Health and Science Networks in helping to drive and support the evaluation and diffusion of innovative products, tackling their local unmet need and aligning everyone with their local health economies. Even patients get a mention with discussion of more involvement with long term planning and horizon scanning, although how this will marry with industry pipelines is unclear.

Simon Stevens agrees with this in his letter published at the front of the review and the NHS is moving in the right direction with the Innovation and Technology Tariff, test beds, vanguards and other changes, even the sustainability and transformation plans.

But, there is a warning from others that the Government must take the recommendations seriously. Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association said in a statement: ‘’Without positive progress on the points raised in the AAR it’s likely that we will see the industry voting with its feet and increasingly placing its clinical development work in countries which offer a more conducive environment. Other nations have funded early access schemes that allow companies to recover some of the costs of engagement and it is essential that the UK system is seen as globally competitive.’’

A number of companies have already closed their UK production sites (one estimate said that the UK produces only around 10% of our medicines), or R&D labs in the UK, or put their clinical trials in cheaper countries. The UK is notoriously complex and difficult to operate in, with regular stories about pricing and the uncertainty around Brexit adding to the worry in global HQs about whether to invest/disinvest. And now that the former single Life Sciences Minister spanning the health and business departments, George Freeman MP, has moved on to bigger issues at Conservative HQ, to be replaced by a number of ministers across departments, will life sciences be given the focus it demands as part of the wider industrial strategy and a ‘’jewel in the crown’’, as described by former PM David Cameron?

As the rest of the world improves education, research and infrastructure, and after the ineffective ‘Innovation, Health and Wealth’ agenda, we’re not in last chance saloon but we could be getting there. The NHS has the capacity to be at the forefront of research through the great access it can provide to data through us as patients, but it will need clear clinical leadership and a change in its culture to enable innovation to be adopted and diffused. Make the changes required and industry, NHS staff and patients will all benefit.

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