The Off-patent Drugs Bill was effectively blocked on 6 November 2015, when a Conservative health minister spoke for twenty-seven minutes to “filibuster” the Bill, so it ran out of time.
The Bill was designed to make potentially significant new treatments more available to patients, and improve efficiency within the NHS. An existing drug may be shown to have additional therapeutic benefit beyond its existing purpose. However, once the drug comes off patent, the manufacturer has reduced financial incentive to seek authorisation for the drug to be used for the new purpose (because they no longer have a monopoly). Doctors can prescribe drugs “off-label”, for a medical use for which the drug is not authorised, but there is a perception that prescription of a drug for a new use is more likely if that use is authorised. The Bill proposed that the Secretary of State for Health would be able to obtain a marketing authorisation for a new use of an existing drug that was “off-patent”, that is, not covered by a patent, to encourage this new treatment.
The Bill was brought as a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, and had cross-party support from back benchers. However, not being supported by the Government, the Bill had limited time for debate on its second reading. The minister was able to speak until the cut-off time of 2:30, and the chair (deputy speaker) refused to allow a vote (closure motion), perhaps on the grounds that there had not been enough debate by the cut-off time. The Bill now appears to have little chance of becoming law.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.