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Make NHS fairer, asserts ABPI

In an encouragingly upbeat act, the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry has drawn up and issued an official manifesto

In an encouragingly upbeat act, the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has drawn up and issued an official manifesto which highlights the UK's poor record for providing access for patients to some of the latest and most effective medicines, and outlines plans to partner the government in boosting the availability of new drugs.

`The NHS was built upon the principle of fairness - but at present, prescribing is neither fair nor consistent,' a statement reads in the ABPI's manifesto, The Right Medicine, The Right Patient, The Right Time, which points to the unremitting problem of postcode prescribing across the country's regions and underlines the UK's relative failure regarding the uptake of new medicines versus several other nations, both European and further afield.

Patients in the UK are, the ABPI asserted, still being ìshort-changed by a system that is slow to pick up on new medicines and reluctant to prescribe them even when they have been recommended by NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence].î

At the core of the Association's welcome move to outline its arguments clearly and drive the debate with all stakeholders, including the Department of Health and expert healthcare consultants to the government, is the determination to make the NHS fairer and to hike the UK up Europe's league table of advanced medicine use, where it currently languishes near the very bottom.

New figures from the ABPI reveal that even five years after their launch, major cancer medicines are prescribed in the UK at under two-thirds the rate of other countries, diabetes drugs at under half the rate, and dementia medicines at approximately just one third the rate.

Of 18 new medicines launched in this period, some 13 are being prescribed below the rate of other countries, while nine are under half the use, the Association made clear.

ìHealthcare and medicines are all about patients and, in the UK, they are not getting modern medicines as quickly as they should - and often not getting them even when NICE has said they should,î stated Nigel Brooksby, president of the ABPI. ìThe industry recognises that the government has to operate within a finite health budget, but preventing patients from getting medicines that can benefit them is not the way to do it.î

He added: ìWe must stop the iniquity whereby people are denied the medicines they need until their condition has deteriorated. There must be a better way ­- including the correct use of cost-effective medicines so that they become part of the answer to financial constraints, not part of the problem.î

The ABPI's manifesto is available via: www.abpi.org.uk

30th September 2008

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