Nick Thomas-Symonds MP to take issue of access to off-patent drugs to Westminster.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the newly-elected MP for Torfaen, has been praised by cancer charities for introducing a Bill that could benefit hundreds of thousands of patients across the UK.

The Off-patent Drugs Bill, which is being supported by new charity Breast Cancer Now, is designed to make drugs that have fallen out of patent, but have since proved effective for clinical uses outside of their original licence, routinely available on the NHS.

If successful, Mr Thomas-Symonds’ Bill would not only benefit patients across the UK at risk of developing, or living with, a range of serious and chronic conditions by giving them access to effective treatments, it would also benefit the NHS, as off-patent drugs are often available at a very low price.

Mr Thomas-Symonds was drawn 8th in a parliamentary ballot on 4thJune and was given the opportunity to introduce a Bill – a proposal for a new law – on a subject of his choosing. Having lost his grandmother – who inspired him to go into politics – to breast cancer, Mr Thomas-Symonds made the decision to introduce the Off-patent Drugs Bill.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP for Torfaen, said:

“In being selected in the ballot, I wanted to support a Bill that would make the greatest possible positive impact on the lives of my constituents. The Off-patent Drugs Bill will do just that.

“If the Bill successfully enters UK law, it will improve access to low-cost treatments for a range of conditions including breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

“I’m proud to be working with Breast Cancer Now in taking this Bill to Parliament – I genuinely believe that it has the potential to benefit hundreds of thousands of people, not only in Torfaen but across the whole of the UK.”

Sally Greenbrook, Policy Manager at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“In the run up to the general election, Nick pledged to champion the needs of his constituents by becoming a Breast Cancer Ambassador in this parliament and supporting Breast Cancer Now in our ambition to stop women dying from breast cancer by 2050. In introducing this Bill, which has the potential to save thousands of lives, Nick has already acted on his word.

“The clinical benefits of some off-patent drugs go far beyond breast cancer, so we’re hopeful the Bill will be well received in Parliament. Given the minimal cost of many of these drugs, alongside their effectiveness, surely this is exactly the type of money-saving opportunity the cash-strapped NHS can’t afford to miss.”

The problem the Bill seeks to address occurs if a drug is shown to be useful for a new purpose after its original patent has expired. Without a patent in place to protect the investment of a pharmaceutical company, there is no incentive for them to sponsor the treatment through the process which they would normally use to license it and approve it for use on the NHS.

Without a licence to act as a ‘kitemark’ of safety for a treatment, it is far less likely to be prescribed to patients, which results in effective and cheap treatments not being routinely available to patients who need them.

The Bill would put into UK law a duty on the government to step in where there is no incentive for a pharmaceutical company to act, and act in the public interest to seek to license and approve off-patent treatments for use on the NHS.

The Bill is being supported by the breast cancer research charity Breast Cancer Now, which was recently formed from the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The charity’s ambition is to stop women dying from breast cancer by 2050.

The charity is championing the Bill as, among its other benefits, it would improve access to two types of breast cancer drug – one which can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer developing, and another which can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading from the breast to the bone, at which point it becomes incurable.

Private Members’ Bills and the Off-patent Drugs Bill

  • Few backbench MPs get the chance to make a mark on the Statute Book by bringing in legislation. However, the lucky 20 MPs drawn in the Private Members’ Bill ballot have been afforded an opportunity to do so. They will be allocated parliamentary time to bring a Bill of their choosing.
  • To enter the ballot, MPs were required to enter their names against a number in the ballot book in the days before the draw. Usually around 420 to 440 MPs enter the ballot each year, but a higher than average number (462) did so for 2015-16.
  • Following this, the successful MPs must formally present their Bills to the House of Commons on Wednesday 24th June.
  • The Off-patent Drugs Bill was originally brought forward by former Conservative MP for Cardiff North, Jonathan Evans MP in the last parliamentary session. The new Bill will be amended to overcome previous objections from the government and Jonathan will be assisting Nick in trying to get the Bill through.
  • Each Private Members Bill can have up to 11 supporters. The supporters to the Off-patent Drugs Bill will be Dan Jarvis, Dr Liam Fox, Liz Saville-Roberts, Dr Phillip Lee, Dame Angela Watkinson, John Healey, Jessica Morden, Mr David Nuttall, Carolyn Harris, Robert Neil and Glyn Davies.

About Breast Cancer Now:

  • Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity – and the only one dedicated to funding research into this devastating disease.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live. The charity is determined to stop women dying from the disease by 2050, working in a new, collaborative way and bringing together all those affected by the disease to fund research, share knowledge and find answers.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s cutting-edge research is focused entirely on breast cancer. The charity supports nearly 450 of the world’s brightest researchers at more than 20 locations across the UK and Ireland. Together, they’re working to discover how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it effectively at every stage so we can stop the disease taking lives.
  • Breast cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK. Nearly 700,000 people living in the UK have experienced a diagnosis and one in eight women will face it in their lifetime. This year alone, more than 50,000 women in this country will be told they have the disease and nearly 12,000 will lose their lives. It’s time to act.
  • Breast Cancer Now launched in June 2015, created by the merger of leading research charities Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Together, their ambition is to finally put an end to breast cancer, once and for all. For more information on Breast Cancer Now’s work, visit www.breastcancernow.org

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