Nia Griffith MP is supporting the Off-Patent Drugs Bill. Explaining the process and purpose of the bill, Nia said
“In response to constituents who have written to me about the Off-Patent Drugs Bill, I should like to assure them that I shall definitely be supporting this bill, which is being sponsored by Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour MP for Torfaen, who was lucky enough to come 8th in the ballot for private members’ bills, which means he gets parliamentary time for a bill of his choosing. I shall therefore be staying up in Parliament on Friday 6th November, and I am trying to persuade other MPs to do likewise, although Fridays are usually a day we spend in our constituencies, so that we can get the 100 MPs required to get a private member’s bill through its initial stages.
So what is the Bill about? Well, some “off-patent” drugs have been shown to be effective for different purposes from the one they were originally intended for. But although being off-patent means they are cheap and could benefit hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, they are not routinely available. This is because they are not approved in the UK for the new use. Once a patent has expired the price of drugs falls dramatically, and because of this low price, there is no commercial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to do the work to show they are suitable to treat different conditions from the one they were first licensed for. If a drug is not approved for a particular use, then doctors take on an extra level of personal liability when prescribing off-patent drugs, which understandably can make them very reluctant to do so.
This Bill would help low-cost, effective treatments to be repurposed and made available to people who need them, by putting a legal duty on the Government to step in where there is no incentive for a pharmaceutical company to act, and to act in the public interest to seek to license and approve off-patent, repurposed drugs for use on the NHS.
I have a particular interest in this bill, because a local MS sufferer, Mr Andrew Barnett of Llangennech first brought to my attention the difficulty that patients across the country were having in obtaining Low Dose Naltrexone, for precisely the reasons outlined above. Our various approaches to Ministers through correspondence and parliamentary debate have not resolved the issue to date, so I very much hope that the Government will not try to block this Bill now.”