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Review of access to new medicines

Published: 31 Jan 2016 00:01

Dr Brian Montgomery to lead independent review

An independent review of the way drugs are assessed for use on the NHS is to be led by former NHS Fife Medical Director, Dr Brian Montgomery, Health Secretary Shona Robison announced today.

The review will look at how the changes made to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) process in 2014 have improved patient access to medicines for rare and end-of-life conditions.

It will also look more broadly at how the whole system for getting patients access to newly licensed drugs safely and quickly is working.

A range of reforms have already been introduced by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, which are designed to give more weight to the views of patients and clinicians when considering drugs for the treatment at end of life and very rare conditions.

Dr Montgomery will lead the review, which is expected to report in the summer, and has previous experience as a former GP, a Health Foundation Leadership Fellow and the former interim Chief Executive of NHS Fife.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Access to new medicines for rare or end-of-life conditions is an extremely complex issue.

"Over the last few years, this Government has taken a number of significant steps to improve the balance of these decisions and help patients get better access to treatments that can give them longer, better quality lives.

"Since we introduced our £90 million New Medicines Fund and made changes to the SMC process in 2014, 26 medicines have been approved under the new system, and together with other reforms have benefitted over 1,000 patients in Scotland.

"However, with new treatments coming to market all the time, it is important to take stock of the progress to date to continually assure ourselves that our systems for assessing and accessing new drugs are keeping pace and meeting the expectations of patients. An important part of this is that the NHS pays a fair price for these new drugs.

"I'm delighted that Dr Montgomery has agreed to lead this review on behalf of the Government and he brings a wealth of experience and a lifetime of working in the health service to the post.

"This review will help to take forward further reforms in the access to new medicines, building on the positive progress achieved already. I look forward to working with Dr Montgomery as his work progresses."

Dr Montgomery said "As a doctor for 33 years holding frontline clinical and senior managerial roles, I know the complexity that surrounds the availability of new medicines. I look forward to listening to the views of a wide range of stakeholders on progress to date and hearing ideas about what more needs to happen to make us fit for the future."

Professor Jonathan Fox, Chairman of Scottish Medicines Consortium, said: "We welcome today's announcement about the review to be carried out by Dr Brian Montgomery. We are committed to continually reviewing the changes that we have made in SMC to increase transparency, give patients and their representatives a greater role, and increase access to new medicines. We look forward to hearing further views from all those who engage with our processes."

Breast Cancer Now's Director for Scotland, Mary Allison, said:

"At Breast Cancer Now we believe that, if we all act now, by 2050 no one will die from breast cancer. To do that we need to make sure that patients and clinicians have access to the most advanced treatments both now and in the future.

"Women with incurable secondary breast cancer and those treating them need better access to innovative life-extending medicines. We believe that the systems in Scotland can work better to get a fairer deal for patients and the NHS.

"These drugs don't only represent medical advances, they represent the hope of more time to see that last birthday, Christmas or holiday; they offer people a chance to share some more time with those they love. The solution is complicated and we welcome the fact that the systems in Scotland will be reviewed."

Notes to editors

Details of the Scottish Medicines Consortium Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) process introduced in 2014 is available online: https://www.scottishmedicines.org.uk/Submission_Process/Submission_guidance_and_forms/PACE