UK: Saatchi Innovation Bill Still Divisive

Pharmaceutical Executive

The innovation debate (Why isn’t there more or it? How much should we pay for it? Just what is it anyway?!) remains a lively one in the UK. Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill is just one part of this debate.

The innovation debate (Why isn’t there more or it? How much should we pay for it? Just what is it anyway?!) remains a lively one in the UK. Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill is just one part of this debate. It’s intended to mitigate against so called ‘defensive’ medicine, where clinicians might not prescribe or undertake surgery that differs from the ‘standard’ because they fear prosecution.

The Bill is still progressing through the House of Lords. In part, progress has been helped by the introduction of amendments, ‘safeguards’ to guard against quackery. The latest of which was just prepared on November 20, 2014. These amendments seem to have won over some of the detractors.

The Bill is still a long way from becoming law; the next stage is a reading in the House of Lords tabled for December. Outside of Westminster the campaign rolls on using very modern PR tactics, including a petition on change.org (with 19,913 supporters so far) and with the Saatchi team encouraging people to email and tweet their MP.

Concerns abound though; detractors say there isn’t compelling evidence that defensive medicine is a barrier to innovation, for others that the current legal framework already allows doctors to prescribe outside of licenses, and even before a license is available, so the Bill isn’t actually needed. More worrying is that some say that it could cause harm from rogue doctors who experiment irresponsibly.

Given the very modern way that the Saatchi team are promoting the Bill, the docs too are trying their hand at modern PR and have now set up their own website, to point out their concerns, as well the more traditional route of writing to The Times. The Lancet has also waded in, suggesting that the Bill strikes at the heart of evidence-based medicine.

The debate has become heated (and creative, some call it the Quacks Charter, others the Medical Anecdote Bill) with the risk that it becomes less about patients, and more about the personalities involved. I can’t help but wonder about the opportunity cost of all this campaigning and parliamentary time, would it have been better to have put the time and money into research to treat rare cancers?

Leela Barham is an independent health economist. You can find out more about on her here and contact her at leels@btinternet.com