NICE makes bold intervention on clinical trials and children

It is great to see our drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), make such a bold statement today that all children and young people with cancer should be given the opportunity to take part in clinical trials and research.

The statement, which is one of seven making up NICE’s ‘Quality Standard’ for ‘Children and Young People in Cancer,’ also supported by cancer charities and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) says:

2. Children and young people with cancer (aged from birth to 24 years) are offered the opportunity to take part in clinical trials (which carry out research into new treatments) that have been identified as suitable for them and are supported to participate in these trials if they want to.

I’m not aware of NICE leading off with such an explicit statement about the importance of clinical trials when launching such a major piece of work before. In fact I am not aware of access to research being included in NICE’s other quality standards  – I looked at the one for diabetes in adults produced just a few years ago for instance – and certainly not as one of the core commitments.

NICE goes onto say in its news release that the key reason for it being included is the evidence that participation in research leads to better outcomes for children and young people with cancer.  It follows concerns voiced by clinicians, patients, researchers and others that children are missing out on vital medicines because of EU rules that allow them to only be tested on adults.  And last year we saw the CMO make a similarly strong recommendation in her annual report about the participation and involvement of young people in trials.

There is a lot now happening across the world of children and young people in research.  At least in terms of discussion and debate.  At yesterday’s INVOLVE Advisory Board we discussed how we could most usefully support this discussion and ensure it heads in a fruitful direction.  We will discuss the matter again with all our members in the Spring.  Industry and the charities are also committed to moving things along. The important point for me is that we ensure that our young citizens are at the forefront of this developing agenda.

One last thought….Wouldn’t it be great to be able to cut and paste this statement and make it work for all conditions and all age groups?

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