Cameron “putting patient privacy at risk” with plan to share medical records with drugs companies
Britain”s life sciences industry has a 50billion annual turnoverThousands could be given cancer drugs before they are approved by NHS under new strategy
David Cameron has been accused of putting patients” privacy at risk over plans to share their medical records with private firms.
The Prime Minister wants to change the NHS constitution to give drugs giants and other healthcare companies the right to access patients” confidential data in the hope it will help them develop new treatments.
He outlined the plans today at the launch of the Strategy for UK Life Sciences in London.
David Cameron, seen chairing a Cabinet meeting at Adastral Park in Ipswich this morning, will outline plans to share patients” medical records in the hope it will help develop new treatments
He revealed the Government is to invest 180 million to reduce the so-called “valley of death” period between the development of new drugs and their use, as part of a drive to ensure that NHS patients are the first to benefit from health breakthroughs.
“The most crucial, fundamental thing we”re doing is opening up the NHS to new ideas,” he said.
“The end-game is for the NHS to be working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world, acting as a huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food-chain – from the labs to the boardrooms to the hospital bed.”
CANCER PATIENTS TO GET DRUGS EARLY
Thousands of cancer patients could be given access to breakthrough treatments that are not yet available in Britain.
Thosewho have exhausted every option would be offered a “last chance” by trying drugs a year before doctors are allowed to prescribe them.
DavidCameron wants to speed up the time it takes between a life-extending treatment being invented and it being given to the sickest patients.
The process can take up to 20 years, but today the Prime Minister has announced a consultation on an “early-access scheme” that would enable drugs to be fast-tracked through months of bureaucracy.
Speaking at the launch of the Strategy for UK Life Sciences in London, Mr Cameron said: “As long as the drug qualifies for the scheme, it should be up to patients and doctors to decide whether they want to use it.
Officials insist patient data would be anonymous and firms would never be able to identify individuals.
But campaigners warn it will herald the “death” of patient confidentiality.
Ministers believe the NHS has some of the most detailed patient records in the world. It could potentially provide vast amounts of data on the 60million patients living in Britain.
This could potentially help drugs firms to develop treatments by enabling them to look at certain trends.
For example, it could help them to discover whether cancer patients taking drugs for other unrelated illnesses had better survival chances.
A Government spokesman said: “The life sciences industry is of vital importance to the UK economy and we are committed to greater collaboration with the NHS to ensure that patients can get faster access to valuable innovative treatments.
“All necessary safeguards would be in place to ensure protection of patients” details – the data will be anonymised and the process will be carefully and robustly regulated.”
In the lab: Britain has been particularly reliant on pharmaceutical firms for success in manufacturing
Andy Burnham, Labour”s health spokesman, warned the Prime Minister to “tread carefully”.
He added: “What he calls red tape others might see as essential safeguards. Some areas need proper regulation and patient records is certainly one of them.”
Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said: “This is the death of patient confidentiality.
“There is no guarantee that information will be anonymised. In any case, anonymised data can just as easily be re-identified.”
The life sciences industry – which includes research into drugs for cancer and Alzheimer”s – turns over 50billion a year and employs 160,000 people in 4,500 companies.
While Britain has been particularly reliant on pharmaceutical firms for success in manufacturing, the industry has been under pressure in recent years and forced to make cutbacks.
David Cameron chats to BT”s Rob Mayhew today, where he was shown some of the latest developments in health technology
A decision by the world”s largest pharmaceutical company Pfizer to close its research and development site in Sandwich, southern England, in February with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs was a sign of Britain”s vulnerability.
Investment returns from researching new drugs have fallen nearly 30 percent in the past year at the world”s 12 top pharmaceutical companies, highlighting the productivity dilemma facing the sector, according to a study by Deloitte and Thomson Reuters published last month.
Despite this, Mr Cameron insisted: “Don”t doubt our ambition – not just to stay in the game, but to lead the game.Not just to hold on to the big companies we”ve got, but to see more businesses setting up here.
“Not just to rest on past glories, but to keep on striving for more breakthroughs.”