Patient access to experimental treatments

Policy Briefing

Published 20/11/2018

Patient access to experimental treatments cover
Experimental treatments


Patients might access experimental treatments if other treatments have not worked or are not available.

  • There are several ways in which experimental treatments can be offered legally to UK patients, or patients may travel abroad to access treatments not offered in the UK.
  • The use of experimental treatments can raise ethical issues such as: difficulties in assessing efficacy and safety; ensuring fairness of access; challenges around decision making and consent; potential impacts on knowledge generation; and ensuring healthcare professionals act responsibly.
  • Particular issues are raised in the context of experimental advanced therapies (such as gene and stem cell therapies), fertility treatment ‘add-ons’, and innovation in surgery.
  • A core challenge is balancing the interests of patients in accessing experimental treatments and the need to support innovation, with ensuring there are sufficient safeguards to protect patients from potential harm(s).

Project team

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Catherine Joynson

Assistant Director

Catherine is part of the senior management team. She is responsible for leading a range of Council projects including the active response programme and its horizon scanning work. Catherine is currently on secondment (part-time) at the UK National Screening Committee.

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Ran Svenning Berg

Research Officer

Ranveig undertakes research to support the Council’s work and monitors developments in areas of interest to the Council. Prior to this she was the Communications Officer at the Council, and before that managed communications at the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and completed a BA in Development Studies and International Relations at London Metropolitan University.

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Arzoo Ahmed

Research Officer

Arzoo is undertaking research as part of the Council’s active response programme and working on the genome editing in farmed animals project. Prior to joining the Council, Arzoo was director at the Centre for Islam and Medicine and a research associate at the Office for Public Management. Arzoo is completing an MA in philosophy at King’s College London, and graduated with a BA in Physics and an MPhil in Medieval Arabic Thought from the University of Oxford.