UK: Research and clinical trials should be at the heart of NHS recovery 

NHS England and public sector bodies must restart clinical trials as part of the process to improve cancer services the pharmaceutical industry has warned.  

David Watson, Executive Director for Patient Access at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, gave evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee for its inquiry into why cancer outcomes in England continue to fall behind comparable countries internationally.  

Watson told MPs that the system needs to evolve if it is to address longer-term threats to cancer services, warning that:  

  • Research and clinical trials should be a priority of NHS recovery. One in six patients receive cancer treatment through these programmes and they cannot afford a delay. Other countries like Germany and Spain have already recovered with patient enrolment up since the start of the pandemic. In England, the numbers are down by 15% versus 2019. 
  • More patients need to be given access to newer cancer medicines. Patients increasingly face a two-tiered system for treatment because new cancer medicines are being given an ‘optimised recommendation’ by NICE that limits their access to a smaller group of patients than approved by the regulator. Half of all medicines given this recommendation between 2010 and 2019 are for cancer. 
  • New types of cancer treatments need to be treated differently by policymakers. Current rules haven’t kept pace with scientific advances meaning that patients risk missing out on gene therapies because they don’t meet narrow ‘affordability’ tests set by NICE for older medicines, despite potentially saving the NHS money in the long run.  

Image credit: Nicolas J Leclercq

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