The recent UK Health and Social Care Select Committee Report recommends “a radical change in UK drugs policy” moving from a criminal justice approach to “a health focused and harm reduction approach”. It recommends significant investment into drug treatment services as a matter of urgency, a review of commissioning (perhaps moving from a localised model to a national agency to oversee commissioning to ensure adherence to a minimum set of national standards)” and focusing efforts “more widely on improving prevention, education and social support”. The Committee considered approaches in different countries and in particular recommends that the Government should actively consider the re-establishment of a central drugs policy agency to co-ordinate the “multiple strands of drug policy”, drawing on lessons from both the Drug Treatment Agency and the Portuguese approach.
With the potential significant refocusing of public monies in relation to what the Select Committee acknowledge to be a public health emergency, could this potentially pave the way for new and innovative MedTech, such as the use of AI, smart medication boxes or digital therapeutics to enter the UK market? The report itself references more traditional services in the examples it gives however, the references to a “holistic harm reduction” could be encouraging to MedTech companies to look further at investing in this space.
The first priority in developing a comprehensive response to drugs must be to improve existing drug treatment services, and extend and develop harm reduction initiatives.