Pills pricing policy a step in the right direction, says ABPI director

Dr Richard Greville outlines the pharmaceutical industry’s work in Wales in 2014 – and looks ahead to changes to come in 2015

Earlier this year, I highlighted the new five-year pricing agreement which had been negotiated between the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the UK Government to help ensure that patients in Wales and across the UK could be prescribed the medicines they need, when they need them, with industry underwriting the cost.

Under this Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulatory Scheme (PPRS), the pharmaceutical industry have agreed to keep expenditure on branded medicines, which are newer, innovative treatments prescribed in the hospital or by your GP, in the scheme flat for two years and within agreed controlled growth levels for a further three years.

The industry has committed to underwrite any further expenditure by the NHS with agreed exclusions.

Companies involved in this scheme – representing 93% of the UK branded pharmaceutical industry – make percentage payments based on any difference between the allowed and actual growth in NHS expenditure on branded medicines.

Across the UK, for the first nine months of 2014, this has amounted to the pharmaceutical industry paying £229m to the Department of Health, a proportion of which will be distributed to the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments.

This agreement clearly demonstrates the industry’s commitment to improving health outcomes for patients in Wales, but the deal cannot fix long-standing problems by itself.

I welcome the increased funding to the front line of the health service in Wales in the Welsh Government’s recent budget announcements.

This is a much-needed injection of cash and we are pleased to have been able to contribute toward this additional investment through the new PPRS, which delivers a share of its payments, based on medicines prescribed, to the Welsh Government.

This is a positive example of the pharmaceutical industry working with the NHS and we would hope it allows health boards more resources to enable more people to access effective new medicines.

Last month, the Minister directly recognised the value of the PPRS payments to Wales when he announced that some of the money would allow the evolution and expansion of the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG), which determines the clinical and cost-effectiveness of medicines and whose positive recommendation, after Ministerial ratification, should ensure a medicine is funded within NHS Wales.

I certainly echo the Minister’s wish for this investment to further open “up the opportunity for more new, cost-effective medicines to be routinely available in a timely manner across Wales.”

However, I need to strike a note of caution in this good news as the jury remains “out” at this early stage of change.

It is important that if some of the money made available from PPRS is used to provide an additional expert view on whether a medicine should be routinely available to patients in Wales, we should expect that view to make a real difference in access to the medicines that patients, and their clinicians, believe to be most appropriate.

NHS Wales can be a leader in making new effective medicines rapidly and consistently available, so that the right patient gets the right medicine at the right time. PPRS provides the opportunity to do this, as it removes a financial risk and provides predictability in the cost of branded medicines during its five-year term.


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