Treatments to be fast-tracked through international collaboration

NHS patients could have quicker access to the next generation of cutting-edge treatments thanks to the UK teaming up with other countries to fast-track the approval process.

The UK will be joining two initiatives bringing together some of the world’s leading regulators to allow pharmaceutical companies to submit medicines to be reviewed by several countries at the same time, pooling resources and allowing patients to benefit from earlier access. The two schemes are: 

Project Orbis: A programme coordinated by the US Food and Drug Administration involving Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil to review and approve promising cancer treatments. The scheme has already given the green light to many life-saving treatments for patients suffering from conditions such as breast cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, endometrial cancer, and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Access consortium: A programme involving Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Singapore to help secure improved patient access to high-quality, safe and effective medicines. The consortium has previously approved 9 innovative prescription medicines, including five new cancer treatments.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will participate as an observer of both groups before the end of 2020 and will be a full participant as of 1 January 2021 after the EU transition period. MHRA will have the authority to make the final decision to authorise medicines onto the UK market and will have complete autonomy to streamline the approval processes even further if needed outside of both schemes.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I will stop at nothing to make sure NHS patients can access life-saving treatments as quickly as possible and now we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to speed up the time it takes to get new medicines from bench to bedside.”