Tomorrow the Medical Innovation Bill is scheduled to receive Second Reading in the House of Commons. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research has closely followed the Bill since it was first introduced, and
The Bill aims to make it easier for doctors to pursue innovative treatments without fear of litigation. However, we are not aware of significant recorded evidence that doctors are being deterred from innovating by threat of litigation. Rather, we are concerned that the Bill does not identify the real barriers to medical research and may have unintended consequences that will harm innovation. In particular, we have raised concerns that the Bill may discourage patients and their clinicians from participating in clinical trials by encouraging the provision of novel treatments on an ad hoc basis.
We are not alone in these concerns, as a large number of patient organisations, research charities, legal bodies, royal colleges and medical unions have all warned that the Bill could actually put patient safety at risk. Notably, Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee and John Baron MP, Chair of the All Party Group on Cancer, were among a group of MPs who wrote an open letter to the Telegraph last week which stated that the legislation is ‘misconceived in fact and law’.
In a positive step over the weekend, the Liberal Democrat Health Minister, Norman Lamb MP, also announced that faced with this level of concern, his party could not support the Bill in its current form. Instead, the Minister has suggested the best way to proceed is to ‘appoint an eminent person to examine what the barriers to innovation really are and how best to overcome them’ – with the involvement of patient organisations, legal bodies, royal colleges and medical unions.
We welcome the debate around medical innovation that this Bill has sparked among the research community, doctors, patients and policy makers. And we hope that in the build up to the General Election and beyond, supporting medical innovation in a responsible and a coordinated way will be seen as a priority.