The MHRA said ministers had decided 'not to progress' the proposed Earlier Access to Medicines Scheme.
The decision had been taken, the agency said, because of 'the many other ongoing initiatives in the NHS'. The MHRA said other mechanisms for access to unlicensed medicines, such as clinical trials and 'named patient use' programmes, were unaffected by the decision.
An MHRA spokeswoman pointed out that the government had also launched the Cancer Drugs Fund and the UK Clinical Trials Gateway, a website with information about clinical trials in the UK.
The MHRA had been asked by ministers to look at introducing a scheme to make 'new and promising medicines' available to patients before they are formally licensed in the UK.
The scheme followed recommendations in a report by the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group (MISG).
The MISG said such a scheme 'would offer significant benefit to patients suffering from life threatening or seriously debilitating conditions for which medicines are being developed but cannot yet be made available as licensed treatments'.