Many drugs have been shown to have benefits beyond the purpose they are licensed for. / AFP/Getty

Ministers have committed to finding new ways to ensure off-patent drugs could be prescribed to patients on the NHS

Patients could get quicker access to low-cost, potentially life-saving drugs for conditions including breast cancer, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, after the Government backed a cross-party reform plan.

Ministers have committed to finding new ways to ensure off-patent drugs could be prescribed to patients on the NHS, where evidence shows they could be beneficial. 

Leading charity Breast Cancer Now said it was “encouraged” by the decision.  

Many drugs have been shown to have benefits beyond the purpose they are licensed for, but if their patent has expired, manufacturers have no commercial incentive to seek a new licence for this new purpose, meaning doctors are less likely to prescribe them.

The new measures, which will look at ways for these drugs to be prescribed on a more consistent basis, are contained in the Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill – an altered version of the so-called Saatchi Bill, which aimed to make it easier for doctors to use experimental treatments.

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