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Industry pays £310m to underwrite medicines bills

Latest fourth quarter rebate revealed as pharma looks to ‘underwrite’ the NHS drugs bill

ABPI London offices 

The ABPI and the Department of Health have revealed a fourth quarter payment from industry of £81m to underwrite the growth of the medicines bill.

The latest sum takes the industry's payments during 2014 to £310m. In 2014, the growth for the entire year was 5.2%, less than the third quarter's growth, which reached 5.93%. 

The pharma industry has been given strict limits under the new PPRS drug pricing scheme, agreed upon last year, which means that UK pharma firms must pay the NHS back any money it makes over the agreed upon limit.

These rebates will continue each quarter and each year until 2019, when a new deal is re-negotiated.  

Alison Clough, ABPI's executive director commercial, commented: “The PPRS provides government and the NHS with a unique opportunity to offer patients access to newer, more innovative medicines at minimal additional cost and today's announcement demonstrates industry's commitment to supporting the NHS in a time of austerity. 

“Industry agreed to the PPRS in order to improve the use of innovative medicines in the UK. We are working with the Department of Health, NHS England and government to ensure action in key areas such as changes to NICE's decision making framework and medicines optimisation to maximise the benefits of the PPRS so that patients can get the right medicine at the right time.”

Increased use of branded medicines was evident for the year, although equal access for patients to all medicines across care sectors did not show a comparative growth, a factor that Clough acknowledged.

She added: “There is significant disparity of growth across the primary and secondary care settings as well as between different therapy areas. We are committed to working with all parties to ensure that the barriers to the use of new medicines in all care settings are removed and that NICE appropriately assesses medicines so that ring-fenced funds for selected therapy areas are not needed.”

The pharma industry has agreed to keep NHS expenditure on branded medicines flat for two years, with a growth of fewer than 2% for the following third, fourth and fifth year.

Money on the ground

Although this money is being paid back to NHS England - the top commissioning body in England - the funds are not always filtering back down to a local level. 

Speaking to PMLiVE at the Diabetes UK conference in London this week, Chris Boulton, AstraZeneca UK's director of marketing, said he had spoken to a number of diabetologists and medicines management doctors who had “no idea that this money existed”. 

He said: “We know it's going to NHS England, but then we have no idea where and how this is going back to Clinical Commissioning Groups [CCGs].”

The 200-plus CCGs are the local commissioners across England who need the money to justify paying for new services, such as drugs. 

Boulton said that there needs to be a way of getting this money to these bodies more “quickly and transparently”, as well as advertising the fact that this is happening, in order for the industry to be able to help the NHS pay for its products on the ground.  

Article by
Kirstie Pickering

13th March 2015

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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