LONDON – Former GlaxoSmithKline boss Andrew Witty is to lead a new British scheme to accelerate access to ground-breaking medicines for conditions such as cancer, dementia and diabetes from April 2018, the government announced on Friday.
The new Accelerated Access Pathway should make some drugs available up to four years faster than at present by reducing the time taken to negotiate financial approvals needed before they can be used by the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
Each year a number of drugs will get “breakthrough” status under the scheme, triggering a package of measures that will help companies fast-track clinical development and secure an accelerated pathway through NHS approval processes.
In exchange, drugmakers will be expected to deliver “additional value for the taxpayer”, with a new commercial unit being created within NHS England to help negotiate cost-effective deals.
Witty will lead the group responsible for deciding which products should be granted breakthrough status, drawing on advice from patients, clinicians and industry.
The move is the latest initiative to bolster the life sciences sector in Britain, which has traditionally been a key plank of the economy, helped by the presence of large local groups such as GSK and AstraZeneca.
Many companies are worried that Brexit could start to undermine Britain’s position as a hub for drug innovation, given the close regulatory and trading links with the European Union.