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ABPI: cost-effective criteria are 'overly-narrow'

The ABPI has called on the government and NHS to ensure that UK pharma's world-leading efforts in developing new respiratory medicines do not go to waste.

The ABPI has called on the government and NHS to ensure that UK pharma's world-leading efforts in developing new respiratory medicines do not go to waste.

In what seems to be a salvo aimed in part at the UK's medicines cost-effectiveness watchdog, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the association expressed concern that many such products are failing to reach patients due to the "overly-narrow" criteria demanded of companies as they attempt to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of new medicines.

"We are increasingly worried that the advances represented by many of these innovative medicines will not benefit UK patients," asserted Richard Barker, Director-general of the ABPI. He added that where new respiratory medicines are not "utilised fully" within the UK, it acts as a "major disincentive to pharma companies and other organisations" to their commitment in researching this field.

The response by Andrew Dillon, chief executive at NICE, was to rebuff claims that the organisation's value assessments are not so stringent as to unduly prevent medicines reaching the market, and to highlight that the NHS must use its finite resources "only on those treatments that offer the greatest benefit to patients".

He told PMLive: "In order to do this, NICE looks at some new and existing drugs to assess the value for money they offer the NHS. The criteria for doing this are far from narrow, and over 95 per cent of the drugs we look at are recommended for use in the NHS."

Patchy uptake across the UK

Dr Barker also insinuated that the NHS continues to suffer from the issue of patchy 'post-code prescribing', adding that, given the growing prevalence of serious respiratory conditions, it is more vital than ever for new medicines which do "make it through the regulatory process" to be made available to patients thereafter. 

Describing breathing disorders as Britain's "silent killer", the ABPI holds a particularly fervent view on the issue due to the high attrition rate associated with developing new medicines, which it reiterated is a "high-risk business".

The association cited that nearly one fifth (19 per cent) of 262 medicines in development worldwide aim to tackle diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. According to data provided by pipeline intelligence analyst, Pharmaprojects, there are currently 36 COPD treatments in phase II and five in phase III in the UK.

6th February 2008

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