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ABPI defends value of branded drugs

Wholly at odds with the suggestion by the government's Committee of Public accounts that the NHS is over-prescribing branded pharmaceuticals, the ABPI has staunchly defended the value of modern medicines, contending that the truth is in fact the opposite of the CPA's assertion.

Wholly at odds with the suggestion by the government's Committee of Public accounts (CPA) that the NHS is over-prescribing branded pharmaceuticals, the ABPI has staunchly defended the value of modern medicines, contending that the truth is in fact the opposite of the CPA's assertion.

ìThe evidence shows that, far from branded medicines being over-prescribed in the UK, the reverse is true," stated Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI, adding that ìmoney spent on informing doctors of the latest treatments available to benefit patients is money well spent".

In a fresh debate on the level of pharmaceutical marketing spend in the UK, the House of Commons-appointed CPA suggested - based in part on information provided in 2007 by the National Audit Office - that without unduly affecting clinical outcomes the health service could save GBP200m a year by switching branded prescriptions to cheaper generic products.

Patchy, post-code prescribing is also still deemed to be a problem in the UK, which not only injects iniquity into patient treatment, but results in erratic and mismatched spending patterns between regions. The use of statins is at the centre of the debate, as universal agreement is lacking as to whether or not the extra costs incurred through their prescription are justified by clinical need.

Some have blamed pharma's marketing programmes as having undue influence over GPs - which was at the heart of the 2003 Health Select Committee investigation.

Appropriate balance
Dr Barker has continued to challenge that accusation, stating that ìthe facts simply do not back the assertion that doctors are unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry's marketing activities", a stance uncontested by the British Medical Association which has also acknowledged the value of prescribing branded drugs for some patients even following patent expiry.

He urged the government to be more concerned about the UK's relatively poor achievements, particularly in Europe, regarding the provision of modern, maximally effective medicines for patients. ìNot only is the UK the poor relation of comparable countries worldwide in terms of prescribing new, innovative medicines but we also have the highest prescribing rates for generics."

The British Generic Manufacturers Association welcomed the call for renewed vigour in boosting generic prescriptions in the UK. However, the ABPI was keen to point out that 82 per cent of all prescriptions in the UK are already written generically, leaving a relatively small - but crucially important - space in the market for providing the newest and most innovative medicines developed by the pharmaceutical industry, which spends GBP3.3bn each year on research and development.

22nd January 2008

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