'I'll run the risk on unapproved drugs'

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A man with motor neurone disease is calling for terminally ill patients to be given access to experimental drugs in return for giving up the right to sue if they experience side effects.

Les Halpin was diagnosed in 2011 and discovered that no new drugs are being developed for his condition, because of the rarity of the disease and the high costs involved in bringing new drugs to the market.

Mr Halpin is now helping fund a campaign calling for a change in the law to help increase access to experimental medicines.

Talking to Today presenter John Humphrys, Mr Haplin said that he was fully prepared to run the risk of any taking unapproved drugs and that "many other MND [motor neurone disease] patients would be with full disclosure of those risks" .

Sir Michael Rawlins, president of the Royal Society of Medicine and head of National Institute for Clinical Excellence, blamed bureaucracy for the lack of access to drugs: "the problem isn't one that requires a change in the law... the problem is getting permissions from the NHS to carry out this kind of research".

Professor Sir Peter Lachmann, former president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said that the problem was a financial one for drug companies.

"Under the present drug regulations it is impossible for small companies to take the drugs to market... because of the huge expense of taking the drugs to trial," he explained.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 15 February 2013.

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