Pharma companies warn Europe will trump England for new medicines

In a new snapshot survey of leading pharmaceutical businesses in the UK, companies have said that changes to the way the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) and NHS England (NHSE) assess new medicines will decrease access to the latest treatments, with new medicines for cancer set to be impacted the most.

The survey of member companies of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), who deliver 80% of the most innovative medicines used by the NHS, asked questions relating to introduction of a £20 million Budget Impact Test and changes to the Highly Specialised Treatments (HST) programme.

When asked about the impact of the Budget Impact Test, 71% said they believed it will mean their companies would prioritise launching new medicines in European countries over the UK.

89% said they believed it will mean patient access to cost-effective medicines in the UK will decrease. 75% said they believed it will impact the introduction of new cancer medicines, with new treatments for immune diseases, genetic conditions, neurological conditions, dementia and heart disease also identified as areas most likely to be effected.

Billed by the NHS as measures that will “significantly speed up access for the most promising and cost effective new technologies”, when asked, no pharmaceutical company said they believed either the Budget Impact Test or changes to the HST programme would increase access to new cost effective medicines.

The Government’s own competitiveness indicators, highlight how the UK is already slow to take up the use of new medicines. 17 NHS patients would typically be on NICE-recommended medicines in the first year, compared to 100 patients in comparative countries including France, Spain and Germany. It takes the UK five years to reach half the level of medicines being used in Europe.

New research by the Office for Health Economics on behalf of Shire shows it takes 27.6 months in England to make a decision on patient access to rare disease medicines (a subset of which are assessed through the Highly Specialised Treatments programme), compared to 19.5 months in France, 18.6 months in Italy and immediate access in Germany.

Mike Thompson, ABPI Chief Executive, said: “The day after the NHS announces plans to a deliver a cancer diagnosis in just four weeks, these measures introduce the prospect of a three-year delay for 20% of new cost effective medicines.

“This means thousands of patients who stand to benefit the most, particularly those with cancer, will miss out on the very latest medical breakthroughs.

“The evidence on access to new medicines is overwhelming, patients in England are already getting a bad deal, and as we head towards Brexit we should be catching up with Europe, not introducing measures that mean we’ll fall further behind.

“In the face of widespread condemnation from patients and charities, the pharmaceutical industry is loud and clear in calling for the Government to step-in and deliver upon their Manifesto commitment to increase the use of cost effective medicines.”

Image credit: Shutterstock.com/ Poznyakov