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HomeBreaking NewsBig pharma strikes blow to NHS patients’ hopes of getting breakthrough drugs

Big pharma strikes blow to NHS patients’ hopes of getting breakthrough drugs

'Quick read' news summary

NHS patients risk missing out on breakthrough drug treatments after two leading pharmaceutical companies pulled out of the UK’s official pricing scheme.

Eli Lilly and AbbVie have left the voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access (VPAS), a long-standing agreement between the Government, NHS and medicine manufacturers designed to limit the cost of drugs for the health service while supporting industry innovation.

The scheme caps the health service’s branded medicines bill, meaning that all drug manufacturers face a charge if the bill rises more than two per cent annually. 

The cost of that charge has risen rapidly in recent years as demand for NHS treatment has grown. As of Dec 2022, the payback rate was set at 26.5 per cent.

Before the pandemic, the rate was about five per cent. 

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the medicines trade body, said the increase puts the UK “out of step” with global competitors, with European countries such as Germany having rates of just nine per cent.

It came after the Government launched its 10-year “Life Sciences Vision” in 2021 to “accelerate the delivery of life-changing innovations to patients” and make the UK a “science superpower”.

However, pharmaceutical companies said that the “punishing” charges are forcing them to reduce their footprint, research and development, and manufacturing investments in the UK.

Meanwhile, the number of clinical trials initiated in the UK every year fell by more than two-fifths between 2017 and 2021.

ABPI and its members said that the level will have further impacts on patients’ access to new and innovative drugs.

Dr Richard Torbett, the chief executive at the ABPI, said that demand for new medicines has grown “much faster than industry pre-pandemic projections – driving up the repayment

NHS patients risk missing out on breakthrough drug treatments after two leading pharmaceutical companies pulled out of the UK’s official pricing scheme. Eli Lilly and AbbVie have left the voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access (VPAS), a long-standing agreement between the Government, NHS and medicine manufacturers designed to limit the cost of drugs for the health service while supporting industry innovation. ABPI and its members said that the level will have further impacts on patients’ access to new and innovative drugs.

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