Patient safety

13.12.17

Access to treatments could reduce post-Brexit

UK patients are at risk of missing out on new treatments after Brexit if a deal is not struck, experts have warned.

Speaking at a Health Committee inquiry yesterday, Dr Jane Spink, chief executive of Genetic Alliance UK, cautioned that if the UK is unable to secure access to European research funding and collaboration as part of the Brexit negotiations, access to trials and medicines for rare diseases in the UK would likely reduce.

Having access to pan-Europeans trials, particularly in the context of a rare diseases, is really critically important because in many rare diseases there are no existing treatments, or existing treatments may be suboptimal,” she explained.

“For a large proportion of rare diseases, the conditions are degenerative, so your ability to access medicines early, even be that through a clinical trial, is incredibly important to patients with rare diseases.

“The least desirable scenario would be for trials to be ongoing in Europe to which UK patients have no access, and then to see products licensed in Europe to which UK patients have no access or delayed access.”

Aisling Burnand MBE, chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities, expressed concerns as to where the funding for research in the UK would come from post-2020.

In an ideal Brexit scenario, she said that patients would continue to have fast access to treatments and that there should be continued alignment and collaboration with EU member states.

Currently patients in countries such as Canada, Australia and Switzerland suffer delays of six to 12 months to access new treatments, which Burnand warned must be minimised in the UK.

She also explained that it is important that the UK continues to collaborate with experts across the EU, and for the UK’s young talent to be able to work with these experts and bring knowledge back to the country.

Dr. Beth Thompson, head of UK and EU policy at the Wellcome Trust, was optimistic that a positive agreement should be achievable because of the “mutual benefits.”

However, she warned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be extremely challenging because of funding, movement of people and regulatory alignment.

“If political will is there, we should be able to reach a good agreement,” Thompson concluded.

In August, the Brexit Health Alliance listed access to new medicines and healthcare research as some of the top issues in negotiations with Brussels, with NHS Confederation boss Niall Dickson arguing patients “stand to lose out” if these areas aren’t prioritised.

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Comments

Eric Nicholls   13/12/2017 at 22:52

Please encourage the re-establishment of close working relationships and collaborations with North America and those Commonwealth countries that strongly supported the Health Service for decades until 20 years ago when they were discouraged and people from the Continent were favoured. Don't despair and don't forget those from other nations that have done far more for the UK and for far longer than any and all of the EU countries.

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