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Doctors to be encouraged to use innovative medicines and 'think outside the box'

By Trevor Mason

Published 26/02/2016

Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill was given an unopposed second reading
Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill was given an unopposed second reading

Doctors will be encouraged to use innovative medicines and treatments under legislation backed by the Lords.

The Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, which will create a database of innovatory treatments, was given an unopposed second reading.

It now faces a race against time as supporters of the measure try to get it made law before the time limit on backbench Bills runs out.

Proposals to give legal protections for doctors against claims of negligence if they tried ''responsible'' innovatory treatments have already been dropped from the Bill in a bid to speed its progress.

Tory Lord Saatchi has been campaigning for a change in the law on innovative treatments since his wife, novelist Josephine Hart, died from a form of ovarian cancer in 2011.

He told peers the aim was to "move forward the culture of innovation" by sharing knowledge of best practice in the battle against cancer and other diseases.

The database would help clinicians to find evidence of innovative treatments "quickly and simply" in a world where drug discoveries were changing profoundly.

Backing the Bill, former consultant obstetrician and independent crossbench peer Lord Patel said it could act as a catalyst for doctors to "think outside the box".

He told peers: "I have used off-licence drugs on several occasions with the consent of the patients I was treating ... when no other treatment was working."

Lord Patel said lots of his colleagues had done the same "with a clear conscience", adding: "I think it is important we stop arguing at length and trying to regulate and control in the minutest detail about innovations in medicines that we can drive forward."

For the Opposition, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath welcomed the Bill, warning that the NHS was "hopeless" in adopting new medicines.

Health minister Lord Prior of Brampton hailed the measure as "hugely important" and vowed to do everything he could to see it on the statute book.

He said the database could include the use of off-label and off-patent medicines.

"The Bill seeks to give doctors access to a database as a source of learning where they can both share their innovations and search for innovations that other doctors have used.

"The purpose is to promote access to innovative treatments by giving doctors access to information they might otherwise not be aware of.

He said it could ultimately result in better care with the fast uptake of new treatments which were shown to work.

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