U.K. commits £86M to get medical advances into NHS faster

The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster--Courtesy of Diliff [CC BY-SA 2.5]

The United Kingdom has put together an £86 million ($112 million) package of funding to cut the time it takes for drugs and other medical advances to reach patients. Officials are making the cash available to start implementing Accelerated Access Review (AAR) recommendations the U.K. sees establishing it as the first port of call for drug development in Europe.

Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy and his colleagues have divvied the money up into four pools. The largest and, from a drug development perspective, most significant pot is the £39 million earmarked for the Academic Health Science Networks (ASHNs). Politicians want the autonomous ASHNs to use the money to assess the benefits of new technologies.

That brief follows the AAR recommendations. The AAR singled out ASHNs as providing a place “for medicines to be tested in a clinical trial or real world setting.” Positive data generated from these studies will support the use of drugs and other medical advances by the National Health Service (NHS).

Richard Torbett, executive director of commercial policy at trade group ABPI, welcomed the news.

“ASHNs are a critical delivery partner for bringing the AAR to life, and £39 million of investment is an important first step in pulling industry and the health service together to realize the review’s ambition,” he said in a statement.

The remit of ASHNs and objectives for the funding extend beyond data generation to cover helping the NHS to increase the use of drugs and other medical products already shown to work. Other pieces of the funding are focused more squarely on drug development. Specifically, the government is putting up £6 million to help small and medium-sized firms with novel drugs and devices generate real-world evidence.

Little of the remaining £41 million will directly affect development-stage biotechs. Officials are making £35 million available to co-fund the development of digital health technologies. The final £6 million is intended to help the NHS better integrate new technologies into its workflows.

The release of the funding comes at a time when the strains between the industry and its critical customer in the U.K.—the government—are particularly evident. ABPI took the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to court last week to block a change to the drug reimbursement process. And the industry faces ongoing uncertainty about the U.K.’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union and the details of the sector deal proposed by the government.