LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has launched a review to speed the path to market for new drugs and medical devices in an attempt to improve patient care and make the country a more attractive place for investment in life sciences.
British manufacturing relies heavily on the pharmaceuticals sector, including domestic giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, but companies complain that the state-run National Health Service (NHS) is too slow to adopt new treatments.
The review, announced at a meeting between industry leaders and ministers at Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office on Thursday, aims to tackle the issue by studying innovative models for drug development.
This will include an examination of the scope for more collaborative work between companies and regulators to ensure that new medicines and devices are assessed more quickly, with greater input from patient groups and charities such as Cancer Research UK.
An independent organization will be appointed to carry out the Innovative Medicines and MedTech Review, starting work early next year and reporting later in 2015.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the initiative is "a big step in the right direction" but that it needs to dovetail with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which assesses whether treatments are sufficiently cost-effective for the NHS.
NICE has frequently clashed with industry over its rejection of some expensive new medicines, notably cancer treatments.
Cameron first announced a drive to make Britain a leading hub for life sciences in 2011, welcomed at the time by industry.
In the latest boost to the sector, United States-based Merck & Co plans to invest at least 42 million pounds ($66 million) in Britain over the next three years, while Becton Dickinson is investing 21 million pounds, the government said.
Merck plans a new licensing hub in London and will expand drug research facilities, while Becton Dickinson is to build a plant in southwest England to produce blood separation tubes.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman