Patients should be given experimental drugs from their GPs to speed up access to new drugs, a major government report has recommended.
Lord O’Shaughnessy conducted a widespread review of clinical trials in Britain and found that it was falling behind in medical research.
He proposed a series of reforms, including financial incentives for general practitioners who conduct drug and treatment trials on their patients in local surgeries or in their own homes.
Patients undergoing genomic testing on the NHS should also be automatically asked to consent to their genetic data being used for research, the report recommends.
The drug and health product regulatory agency has been tasked with cutting red tape and speeding up drug approval. It is also asked to approve clinical trials within 60 days of submission.
A scientific superpower
Figures from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry show that the number of industrial clinical trials started each year in the UK has fallen by 41 per cent between 2017 and 2021.
The government said it had pledged more than £120 million to make it easier for patients to take part in studies and Steve Barclay, the health minister, said ministers would heed recommendations to speed up research.
The funding is part of a £650 million package to fund the UK’s life science sector and turn Britain into a science superpower.
Will Quince, Minister of Health and Secondary Care, wrote in The Telegraph: “Reducing the time it takes for new medicines to reach patients is vital and has a direct impact on how patients recover faster or better manage conditions .
“We want to make it easier for more people to be a part of life-changing research and providing the opportunity to virtually participate in trials will expand the reach of those who want or can participate.
“From cancer to obesity, these studies could lead to billions of pounds in savings for the NHS and reduce waiting lists through faster diagnosis and improved treatment.”
Lord O’Shaughnessy’s report said the Covid pandemic had shown that life-saving vaccines and medicines could be made available quickly when unnecessary bureaucracy was removed.
See trials taking place
The recommendations include actively seeking out patients who could benefit from experimental drugs and making it easier for people to see what trials are happening so they can enroll.
Dr. Ian Walker, executive director of policy, information and communication at Cancer Research UK, said community trials would speed up access to new medicines.
“Bringing trials to locations outside of hospitals and reducing red tape will allow more trials to be started, more patients to participate in trials, and faster progress toward new treatments,” he said.
prof. Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, added: “We have fallen behind many other international countries in a short period of time. This is devastating for UK pharma and its impact on jobs and the economy, but more importantly for patients.
“Participation in clinical trials increases the likelihood that patients will gain faster access to new and effective treatments. The recommendations in the O’Shaughnessy review point to ways to reverse this decline.”
Our five key commitments will help make the UK a top location for medical research
By Will Quince, Secretary of Health
Clinical trials can often be stereotyped as a researcher with a microscope in a back room somewhere, but this is far from the case. They are crucial to discovering new drugs to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases such as cancer, and can save lives now and in the future.
The UK has already made significant progress in improving clinical research since the pandemic. Lord O’Shaughnessy’s welcome review of clinical trials could help the medical research industry go a step further, not only ensuring that NHS patients benefit more quickly from cutting-edge treatments, but also unlocking the UK’s economic growth by thousands support quality jobs and attract global investment, further enhancing our research potential.
Following his recommendations, we have made five key commitments to improve how commercial clinical trials are delivered to those in need, backed by £121 million.
Attractive place for research
Reducing the time it takes for new drugs to reach patients is vital and has a direct impact on how they can recover faster or better manage conditions. There is already evidence that we can reduce the start-up time of commercial trials by 45 percent, demonstrating our commitment to improving the speed and efficiency of clinical trials.
This will also make the UK more attractive for research, encouraging investment.
But we can’t do all of this without the support of volunteers. Through their help, researchers are finding medical breakthroughs and helping the NHS save lives, including curing one person’s cancer.
We want to make it easier for more people to be a part of life-changing research and providing the opportunity to participate virtually in trials will expand the reach of those who want or can participate.
A good example is the Be Part of Research service of the National Institute for Health and Care Research, which has already registered 150,000 people to be contacted about participating in relevant research. It’s even now available through the NHS app and I encourage anyone who qualifies to sign up on the registry to play their part.
This makes it quicker and easier for patients to indicate their interest in certain studies and puts them at the center of the research they want to be involved in. From cancer to obesity, these studies could lead to billions of pounds in savings for the NHS and shorten waiting lists through faster diagnosis and improved treatment.
Easier to join
Part of this is making sure people have the right information about what clinical trials are happening around the country. That’s why we’re investing £81 million through the NIHR to help provide ‘real-time’ data on the progress of commercial clinical trials, making it easier for patients to make the decision to participate.
Our response to Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review highlights our collective renewed commitment to growing the UK science sector and strengthening our position as one of the world’s best places to conduct clinical trials. We have already gone through the groundbreaking Covid Recovery trial. This was set up in record time and was the world’s largest randomized controlled trial for Covid-19.
In addition to our commitments today, we will continue some of the other actions in this review and incorporate them into our work to support commercial clinical trials.
I look forward to providing you with a further update in the fall outlining progress, and fully responding to the remaining recommendations to help us find new ways to speed diagnosis, improve treatment and ensure to ensure the NHS is at the forefront of cutting-edge research.