- Nigel Hawkes
The prime minister has launched a plan to speed up access to new drugs for NHS patients and to simplify access to NHS data for life science companies.
The package, which includes an £180m (€210m; $280m) fund to assist the adoption of new ideas, aims to create a better environment for biomedical investment. Rising research costs, combined with a smaller pipeline of new products and higher marketing hurdles, are making Britain less attractive as a research base and risk stifling its most important high tech industry. The decision by Pfizer earlier this year to close its laboratory in Sandwich, Kent, in spite of its many successes, brought the issue to a head (BMJ 2011;342:d771, doi:10.1136/bmj.d771).
In a speech on 5 December David Cameron claimed that the plan would benefit the industry, the NHS, and patients. The United Kingdom already had many strengths in life sciences, together with an industry that provided 165 000 jobs and a £50bn annual turnover, but the world was changing. “To keep pace we’ve got to change radically—the way we innovate, the way we collaborate, the way we open up the NHS,” he said, urging the NHS to become “the fastest adaptor of new ideas in the world, acting as a huge …