Manufacture, marketing and supply

Part of Medicines and Medical Devices Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 8 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 12:45, 8 Mehefin 2020

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the development of new medicines in new clause 2, which are important in new clause 3 as well. Antimicrobial resistance, as he has mentioned, is an absolutely critical issue of today. I will first set out what we are doing in that area. The development of medicines is an integral part of the UK life sciences sector, and we are committed to making sure that we can develop such medicines. The Bill gives us powers to maintain an effective system for regulating, including with respect to clinical trials. New clause 4 allows us to adapt the regulatory framework around them in a way that best suits the industry. The development of medicines is the role of the pharmaceutical industries and researchers, and we want to support them fully. The Government are committed to supporting a thriving sector, investing more than £1 billion a year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research, which is committed to openness and transparency about where the funds go. It ensures that all trials publicly register before any patient intervention, and key trial outcomes are made publicly available. However, the arrangements for Government support and funding through trials is not within the Bill.

I will address some of the work that the hon. Member for Nottingham North alluded to at Public Health England’s Porton Down campus, sometimes referred to in the context of medicine developments. The current PHE facilities at Porton Down do not develop medicines for Government, but engage in a range of scientific work for commercial and public sector customers. This includes the safety and efficacy of testing vaccines and therapeutics, and discovery work relating to novel and dangerous pathogens. Porton Down is also the site for work by Porton Biopharma Ltd, which is a public non-financial corporation and is outside central Government. Although PBL develops and manufactures biopharma products, this falls outside the Government and we are therefore not in a position to publish reports on the development of its work.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the important issue of AMR in new clause 4. I want to reassure the Committee that tackling AMR is a high priority for the Government and that its impact remains on the national risk register. The UK continues to lead the way on global action to tackle AMR, working alongside international partners, the most famous of whom is probably the most recent chief medical officer before Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who has taken up her position as the special envoy for AMR. Her role will continue to underline the UK’s position as a world leader in developing and delivering international action in that space.

In January 2019, the UK Government published their vision to contain and control AMR by 2040. Achieving that is supported by the delivery of a five-year national action plan from 2019 to 2024. The delivery of the cross-Government commitments in the action plan is being overseen by a joint DHSC and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-chaired programme board, established in October 2019. The commitments in the national action plan cover all sectors, including human health, animal health, food and the environment.

The UK has already made good progress in reducing its use of antibiotics in humans and animals, and we now have the fifth-lowest level of antibiotic consumption in food-producing animals out of 31 European countries. We have also seen unprecedented levels of investment in collaboration in research on AMR nationally and globally. The UK invests significantly in AMR through the Fleming Fund and the global AMR innovation fund.

The hon. Member for Nottingham North is correct that the Government should prioritise the development of new medicines to address antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotics. Indeed, we already do. Having a pipeline full of antimicrobial drugs is critical to our efforts to contain, control and mitigate AMR, as outlined in the strategy towards 2040.

In July 2019, the UK formally launched a project for developing and testing the world’s first subscription-style payment model for antibiotics. If successful, it would mean that pharmaceutical companies received payment up front for access to their antibiotic products, based on the products’ value to the NHS, as opposed to the volume used. We are the first country in the world to test such a model and more information will be published on it in due course.

Although we know how important new medicines are in tackling antimicrobial resistance, a strengthened focus on prevention and the control of infection will help to contain the emergence and spread of resistance to antibiotics. By limiting and reducing the need to use antibiotics in the first place, we are taking a zero-tolerance approach to avoiding infection in human healthcare settings, as set out in the action plan. Our plan will result in at least 15,000 fewer UK patients being affected by infections each year by 2024, and 5,000 fewer drug-resistant infections.

In parallel, we are focusing on reducing animal exposures and susceptibility to pathogens that could result in the need for treatment with antimicrobials. By working closely with the veterinary profession to implement those preventive measures, we will reduce the need for new antimicrobial medicines as we reduce them in the food chain.

I hope that hon. Members will agree that the UK Government are working hard to ensure that AMR is controlled and contained through the vision for 2040 and the five-year action plan. New clause 4 is not necessary for the Bill. If the hon. Member for Nottingham North has further specific questions in relation to either medicines by the Government or AMR, I would be happy for him to write to me and I will endeavour to answer those points in a closed format. On that basis, I ask him to withdraw the new clause.