This Friday, 6th November, there’s a quiet little bill coming up before the House of Commons which could make a massive difference to people who have, or who might get, cancer, MS, Altzhemiers or a host of other conditions including good old PD. So that’s everyone, basically.
And because it’s a Friday in November, even though the bill is a really good one which can help save lives and save the NHS money, it might not get through. Because to move onto the next stage, at least 100 MPs have to turn out and vote in its favour. And many of those MPs will be on the trains home to spend the weekend with their families.
The bill has the winningly exciting title of “The Off-Patents Drugs Bill”. There’s a brilliant, very short video about it here which I’m going to urge you to watch at the end of this blog.
The video, which was make by a Breast Cancer Charity, explains it a lot better than I can. Nevertheless, here’s a spoiler.
Increasingly, researchers are finding that drugs which were developed for one condition can actually be really beneficial for other conditions. This is really good news, as it means that the drug will have already proved to be safe for use on humans and so could be available much quicker.
The problem is that, before such drugs can be prescribed, they need to be registered and licensed. Organising and paying for the licensing of a drug would be normally be done by the pharmaceutical company who developed them. Then they are sold to the NHS for mega bucks.
But a drug which is being repurposed for a condition other than that for which it was originally devised is likely to be out of patent. So there’s no incentive for a pharmaceutical company to go to the trouble of getting it licensed. Which means that doctors can’t prescribe it for the new condition, however compelling the evidence is that it might work.
Friday’s bill is about giving Government an obligation to arrange the licensing of these off patent drugs themselves, rather than relying on pharmaceutical companies to do it. Everything about the Bill is good: it would save the NHS money as well as the medical benefits. The only thing not to like about it is the timing. It’s stuck on Friday morning between something about charitable trusts and the heart-racingly titled “Highways (Improvement, Traffic Regulation and Traffic Management) Bill.” The last time a similar bill proposed, it failed because not enough MPs turned out to vote. There need to be 100, remember.
So this is where you can help. Please, please before you read another blog or plan another lesson, take five minutes to ask your MP to go to the vote on Friday. There’s a link on the video I mentioned to a simple form you can use. Or you can look up your MP’s address here and drop them an email. Feel free to copy and paste, or add a link to, this blog.
So here’s the video again. Of course, if you don’t know anyone who has got, or might get, Cancer or MS or dementia or PD feel free to ignore it.
No pressure then.