A Bill proposed by Lord Saatchi to give dying cancer patients access to unlicensed drugs could come into force by March, after the government and doctors voiced their support.
Supporters of the Medical Innovation Bill, which will allow patients to volunteer for treatments using unlicensed drugs, believe it has a 75 per cent chance of passing in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It was proposed by advertising guru Lord Saatchi following the death of his wife Josephine Hart from ovarian cancer.
Among its supporters are health secretary Jeremy Hunt and the General Medical Council, which gave it a cautious welcome after voicing its opposition back in April, largely because Saatchi's original proposals have been amended by Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England's medical director, to add patient protections.
The Bill now includes a requirement for the agreement of at least one other specialist before unlicensed medical treatments can be administered to patients. Saatchi told the Telegraph new drugs were already being tried in the case of Ebola victims in Africa.
In dealing with the deadly Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation has decided that departure from standard evidence-based treatment is fully justified and essential.
It has set ethical guidelines for the use of new therapies and interventions - they are identical to the provisions of the Medical Innovation Bill.
As well as potentially saving lives in the short term, the bill hopes to cut the need for years of clinical trials and reduce the cost of medicine, making pharmaceutical firms more likely to fund experimental drugs that only help a small number of people.