Not before time...
Patients to be told about clinical trials
By Nicholas Timmins, Public Policy Editor
Published: June 24 2008 03:05 | Last updated: June 24 2008 03:05
Patients are to be given the right to be told about clinical trials in a move aimed at making the National Health Service a more attractive place for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to do research.
The aim is also to improve patients’ access to innovative drugs and treatments.
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The move will be announced on Tuesday by Gordon Brown, the prime minister, as part of a package of measures aimed at boosting medical research, innovation and the swifter uptake of new treatments.
Other initiatives include creating five to 10 academic health science centres combining universities’ medical research departments with teaching hospitals. Some leading doctors, including Lord Darzi, health minister, believe such a move helps account for the pre-eminence of the US in both medical research and the rapid uptake of new treatments.
Imperial College London has already merged its medical faculty with St Mary’s, the Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals to create the first such centre in the UK. Its chief executive, Professor Steve Smith, argues that the fusion of teaching, research and care will help keep UK medical science and practice in the same league as the academic health science centres at Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, consistently rated the top US hospital.
A panel is to be set up to establish a standard that academic health science centres will have to meet to claim the name. King’s College, London, is already exploring the idea with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, while Oxford, Cambridge and University College London Hospitals are also likely candidates. The idea could spread in time to other big cities with strong medical schools and universities, such as Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.
The idea of giving patients a formal right to be informed of clinical trials from which they might benefit moves beyond the current position where registers of clinical trials are available.
But the right to be informed may depend on the deployment of the NHS’s electronic patient record, running four years late.
Pfizer pulled out of four planned clinical trials in the UK, including one for a cancer drug: it could not find enough patients receiving the current “gold standard” treatment to make the trials possible.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008