Health care: Better drug access for terminal patients

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
502,
Page:
38
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/502038c
Published online

The distinguished statistician Les Halpin died last month from motor neuron disease, aged 56. He was the founder of the Empower: Access to Medicine campaign to improve the availability of experimental therapies and to accelerate drug approval and licensing for people with life-threatening illnesses (see go.nature.com/v2nr3y).

After his diagnosis in May 2011, Halpin was surprised by the lack of treatments for people with his disease. This led him to ponder, from a statistical viewpoint, the regulatory systems that we apply to biomedical innovation, noting that they are much more risk-averse than the patients they are intended to serve. He believed that as a result, new medicines take longer to develop and are more costly than necessary.

His campaign has enabled drugs to get to market faster and more cheaply (see, for example, go.nature.com/gmgcyu). With support from academics, politicians and industrial scientists, he developed the Halpin Protocol (see go.nature.com/3z2wkd), which has sparked debate in the UK Parliament.

Halpin's campaign to overcome barriers to health-care translation will continue, aiming to lower them objectively and safely through increased flexibility in drug development and regulation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. University of Oxford, and CASMI, Oxford, UK; and Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Massachusetts, USA.

    • David A. Brindley
  2. CASMI, Oxford, UK.

    • Richard W. Barker
  3. University of Cambridge, UK.

    • Peter J. Lachmann

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