My Lords, I want to start by providing the House with a few vital statistics on these three life sciences statutory instruments. On my bathroom scales this morning, they weighed in at a little over 2 kilograms. There are 416 pages of statutory instrument and 132 pages of explanatory memorandum, including impact assessments. There are now just 22 days for those working in the life sciences industry to understand how they might be affected by these SIs if our beloved Prime Minister inadvertently drives the Brexit car over the cliff on
No doubt the Minister, like other Members of your Lordships’ House, has read every page of these documents. I make no such claim, but I have tried to understand the impact assessments and have had the benefit of some very helpful briefing from the industry, especially the BIA.
It is very clear that, despite the expertise and professionalism of the MHRA and the industry, they have been left with ludicrously little time to master a massive amount of new detail and system change, particularly as many of the companies in this sector are SMEs. These SIs create a great deal of additional red tape and running costs. They have already taken funding and resources away from research and development, and, as the impact assessments show, this will continue into the future.
I start with the clinical trials statutory instrument and the assurances given by the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy—an ex-Minister for whom I have great respect and who has wisely removed himself from the scene. In a speech that he gave in July 2017, he said:
“In the event that it is not possible to reach a deal that secures ongoing, close collaboration between the UK and Europe, we will set up a regulatory system in the UK that protects the best interests of patients, and supports industry to grow and flourish. We will ensure that our system is robust, efficacious and does not impose any additional bureaucratic burdens”.
Fine words, but what we have before us today fails to meet those three guarantees that the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, gave on behalf of the Government back in the heady days of July 2017.
Regulation 18 of the clinical trials SI will add another layer of red tape and runs totally counter to what I will call the “O’Shaughnessy assurances”. Specifically—here I quote the BIA briefing:
“Industry does not understand the need for the requirement for an additional UK-based quality assurance system to verify QP certification of investigational medicinal products (IMPs) imported from EU/EEA countries on the approved country list given that the clinical trial sponsor is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the IMP supply chain”.
Therefore, it is saying to the Government, “You’ve introduced something which is not necessary”.
It gets worse. I am told that the August 2018 government technical notice on the batch release of medicines and IMPs stated that the UK would unilaterally recognise EU batch release for IMPs. Therefore, despite the assurances given to the industry in 2017 and 2018, the Government have now added a new layer of red tape that will reduce the benefit for the sector of that batch release recognition. This, in turn, will impact adversely on the attractiveness of the UK as a location for clinical trials. Perhaps the Minister can explain to us and to the industry why there has been this last-minute change of policy.
I now turn to the human medicines SI and will address, first, the issue that I raised during debate on earlier SIs in Grand Committee—the start date for market exclusivity. It is proposed that market exclusivity will start on the date of authorisation of the drug in the EU or in the UK, whichever is earlier. The Government claim that this will encourage companies to submit applications for innovative products to the UK as soon as possible. The BIA says something different. It says that many of its members take a totally different view from that of the Government and that that will delay market authorisation in the UK, thereby reducing company revenue because of a shorter period of exclusivity. This would also reduce the access of UK patients to innovative medicines. Perhaps the Minister can say why the industry’s view has been rejected by the Government.
The impact assessment on this SI very honestly sets out a raft of reasons why a separate UK regulatory system will increase the costs of securing UK market authorisation for new drugs. These are not my words; they are in the impact assessment. The cumulative effect of these duplicated costs on pharmaceutical companies is likely to be considerable, as the MHRA makes abundantly clear. The assessment goes on to say:
“It is likely manufacturers would seek to recoup these additional regulatory costs through price increases, which would affect NHS budgeting and spending choices”.
The assessment also cites independent analysis suggesting that there could be delays in new, innovative medicines coming to the UK market once the UK has legislated to become a stand-alone regulator.
The life sciences ecosystem has been a thriving one, especially the biotech part. Every month, 45 million packs of medicine move from the UK to the EU and 37 million packs come back the other way. The pharmaceutical sector invests more in R&D than any other sector: 20% of all business R&D. This is an industry with an annual turnover of £60 billion and exports of £30 billion. It employs 63,000 people with 24,000 jobs in R&D. A clunky regulatory system with extra costs and disincentives to innovation, which the Government are busily devising, puts this sector’s future success at grave risk. It also damages patient access to new drugs and drives up NHS costs. The Government have made a hash of managing Brexit for the life sciences and this can only be made worse with a no-deal Brexit, as the impact assessments of these three SIs demonstrate.
This is a highly successful UK industry. If it is seriously damaged by Brexit, I want people in the future to know where the blame rests: with this Government.