MP calls for inquiry over shelved Newcastle University cancer drug research

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson seek assurances from business secretary Vince Cable over shelved cancer drug research

Lewis Arnold Blaydon MP Dave Anderson
Blaydon MP Dave Anderson

The Business Secretary has been asked to investigate claims under-fire pharmaceutical firm Pfizer shelved Newcastle University research into a life-changing cancer drug.

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson has contacted minister Vince Cable’s department over concerns that a drug targeting hereditary ovarian and breast cancer may once again be delayed as a result of the American firm’s bid for UK-based AstraZeneca.

Pfizer’s takeover battle has already seen the firm publicly told its efforts could cause a delay in bringing new cancer treatments to the market.

Labour MP Mr Anderson says he was contacted by part of a Newcastle University team which developed a new class of anticancer drugs, called PARP inhibitors, under license to Pfizer.

Clinical trials were scheduled for 2003 and there was confidence that the drug would bring in millions of pounds to the UK economy and, more importantly, offer hope to thousands of women a year.

Pfizer though decided not to take the Rucaparib drug to market, with the MP being told ‘internal company politics’ were partly to blame. An American firm is now set to enjoy success with the drug.

Mr Anderson has told the business secretary that, since AstraZeneca is developing a similar drug, assurances must be given that this vital research is not once again stalled.

Danny Lawson/PA Wire UK Business Secretary Vince Cable
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable

The MP has tabled a parliamentary question calling on Dr Cable’s department to investigate, asking: “ Will the Secretary of State examine the background of Pfizer’s involvement in the failed development of the anti cancer drug, Rucaparib, for which they were granted a licence in 2003 and make his findings public to the appropriate select committees who are investigating the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca.”

Last night, a spokesperson for Pfizer, said: “It is too early to speculate on specific areas of research, as we are not in active discussions with AstraZeneca.”

Mr Anderson though insisted the concerns had to be addressed at the earliest level.

He said: “This shows that Pfizer has a track record of failure in delivering for those who need their services most. They have confirmed in the Select Committee hearings that research budgets will be cut which will make it even less likely that crucially needed drugs will remain in the laboratory instead of in people’s medicine cabinets.

“We lead the world in developing these life saving or life improving medicines and I worry that the real intent is not to improve the system for the benefit of mankind, it is more about cornering the market for the benefit of Pfizer.”

The MP’s push for an investigation is unlikely to meet with immediate success however as Parliament is about to enter another lengthy prorogation period, with no chance of a reply until after the Queen’s Speech.

Mr Anderson said is showed the Government is “asleep on the job”.


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