That is a really important point. The PKU campaigners have explained to me that on some occasions when manufacturers have changed the ingredients in food or drinks, that has had a terrible impact because people with PKU have not necessarily known about it, so they have continued to drink or eat things that they have consumed without any problems in the past, but because the ingredients have changed, it has caused them a big problem.
For many people with PKU, taking Kuvan considerably increases the amount of protein that they can safely eat. We are therefore urging the Government, the NHS and BioMarin, which manufactures these supplements, to agree a deal so that people with PKU can enjoy a normal healthy life. I spoke to the National Society for Phenylketonuria this morning, and it told me that the whole PKU community are demoralised. They say that they are working hard but feel that not much progress is being made. What is the Minister going to do today to give these people, some of whom are in the Public Gallery, and others who are sitting at home with their kids watching this debate, to give them hope of this situation being resolved?
My next point is about Spinraza treatment for people with spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, which affects an estimated 1,300 people across the UK. It can cause irreversible loss of a child’s ability to crawl, walk, breathe and swallow. In the most severe cases, it can cause death. Spinraza is the first possible treatment for those who have SMA types 1, 2 and 3. It can slow its progression and prolong life. From April, this treatment is going to be routinely available in Scotland, and it is already available in 24 other countries in Europe, yet it is still stuck in the NICE process for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
That is why, in the end, the purpose of this debate is to ask the Government to look carefully at the way that NICE works. New drugs are being developed, and technological changes are happening, so rapidly that the Minister needs to be able to tell us how the way drugs are assessed and licensed, and then approved, will work in future. How is he going to ensure that these ground-breaking drugs are made available to the people who need them, when they need them? In 2016, NICE was not able to recommend the use of Orkambi because of uncertainty around its long-term value, impact and cost-effectiveness. But this drug is available in the USA, across Europe, and, more recently, in Scotland, so when do the Government think patients in England are going to get it? This is really urgent. The system has not worked and patients are being let down.
On PKU, NICE decided to start an appraisal of Kuvan in 2018, but this has since been suspended. NICE is currently reconsidering which appraisal process to use to access Kuvan, and the NHS is considering whether to fund an interim policy for the use of the drug. But, again, this is not enough, and not quick enough. The NICE process sees PKU as rare, but not rare enough. As we have heard, the majority of PKU treatments are assessed by the STA process, which is designed for non-rare treatments. NICE’s approach evaluates the lifelong costs of treatment, meaning that the cost thresholds and the approach to evidence are all designed for more common diseases than PKU. SMA sufferers are waiting for NICE, NHS England and Biogen, which manufactures Spinraza, to come to a deal. I hope we will hear better news on all those things from the Government than we have in the past.
It is my job to listen to people in Dudley who are living with cystic fibrosis, PKU, SMA and other rare diseases, to come down to London and speak up for them in Parliament and to demand, as we are doing this afternoon, that the Government ensure that they get access to the treatment they need and deserve.