Alistair Burt denied accusations that the parliamentary manoeuvre was ‘disgraceful’
A Conservative health minister has deliberately blocked a new law to provide cheap and effective drugs for the NHS by championing medicines whose patents have expired. Alistair Burt spoke for nearly half an hour to “filibuster” the proposed Off-Patent Drugs Bill, a plan that had cross-party support from backbenchers.
Because the proposed law is not supported by the Government it only has a limited amount of time to be debated in Parliament, or has to be shelved. Mr Burt deliberately used up the bill’s time by speaking at length for 27 minutes, despite heckles and jeering from Labour, SNP, and Conservative benches.
The proposed law would have compelled the Government to seek new licences for medicines that were not covered by patents but which could benefit patients. Currently, such medicines tend to go un-licensed because there is no profit incentive for pharmaceutical companies to bring forward an application for a licence.
Proponents, including charities, say the bill would open up a range of treatments for diseases such as breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s – and save the NHS millions of pounds.
But the Government said it did not support the bill because “there is another pathway”.
“I will talk until half past two and I make that very clear,” Mr Burt told MPs at the beginning of his speech – indicating that he would force parliament to reject the law.