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International partnerships to fast-track cutting-edge treatments

NHS patients could soon have quicker access to new cutting-edge treatments and technologies after the UK has come together to join a host of international collaborators to fast-track the approval process.

With the country leaving the EU, the UK now has complete autonomy to streamline the approval process for medicines – while ensuring it maintains the higher standards of safety and care.

This opportunity has led to the UK joining two international initiatives to bring 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 in these countries to benefit from earlier access.

These medicines will include cancer treatments, with the UK working alongside experts and regulators from the USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil.

The two schemes it will be joining initially are:

Project Orbis

A programme co-ordinated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and involving Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil which will look to review and approve promising cancer treatments.

Already, the scheme has greenlit a number of life-saving treatments for 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 nine 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, while its exit from the European Union is finalised, before transitioning to a full participant as of January 1, 2021.

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.

“With the ground-breaking work on dexamethasone and other Covid-19 treatments, it is clear the UK continues to lead the way with research into the most transformative treatments.

“I’m delighted the UK will be teaming up with some of the world’s best regulators to put patients first by fast-tracking cutting-edge medicines after the transition period.”

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, added: “We are committed to working together to ensure that UK patients are among the first to benefit from promising life-saving treatments. Through our commitment to international cooperation and innovation in regulation, the MHRA continues to be at the forefront of new developments as a global hub for life sciences.”

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