Breast Cancer Now calls for the Scottish Government to leave no stone unturned in efforts to unlock drugs.

Leading charity Breast Cancer Now has branded the rejection of the Off-patent Drugs Bill at the UK Parliament today a “missed opportunity” to improve care for Scots. 

The Bill – which failed to make it through the Second Reading stage (Friday 6 November 2015) in the House of Commons as the UK Government didn’t support the proposal – sought to make cheap off-patent drugs more easily available for new innovative uses by putting into UK law a duty on the Government to step in where there is no incentive for a pharmaceutical company to act. 

Some existing, ‘off-patent’ drugs have been shown to be effective for different purposes to the one they were originally intended for. But, although they could benefit hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, some of these drugs are not made routinely available. This is because they are not approved in the UK for the new use.  

While decisions on drug licensing are made by the UK Government, the charity made an appeal to the Scottish Government to “leave no stone unturned” in efforts to make sure that such off-patent drugs can be made more easily available through the NHS in Scotland.   

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

“We are very disappointed with the rejection of the Off-patent Drugs Bill in Parliament today. It’s a missed opportunity to improve care for people across the UK, including Scotland.  

“By making cheap off-patent drugs more easily available, this Bill could have helped save lives.    

“There is a strong coalition in favour of unlocking these drugs. We would like to thank everyone who supported the Bill, including the medical community, health charities and the Scottish MPs who turned up today. We will continue to try and turn that strength of support into action.  

“Where the UK Government has failed we hope that the Scottish Government can help. Drug licensing is reserved to the UK Government, but we hope that the Scottish Government will leave no stone unturned in investigating other options to make sure these drugs get to patients quickly.”

Palma Brannan, from Motherwell, is a breast cancer survivor and supporter of Breast Cancer Now’s Unlock Drugs campaign. She said:  

“To be honest I feel quite let down by the UK Government. They had the chance to help people affected by breast cancer and other diseases, but they’ve let this opportunity slip through their fingers."

“I hoped that they would see that the Bill could pave the way for these drugs being widely used in new and innovative ways.

“These drugs provide options for people. We need to find some way of properly unlocking them.”

More information

Find out more about our Off-patent Drugs Bill campaign.