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Patient survey finds pharma falls short on drug pricing

The industry is coming under increasing attack from all sides as price tags rise

Tightrope 

A group representing patients in the UK has said pharma's pricing policies are harming patients' access to life-saving medicines.

A newly-analysed slice of data from the 2014 PatientView survey of corporate reputations in pharma reveals that patients groups believe the sector is pricing drugs too aggressively, which in turn has led to multiple rejections of new therapies by England's pricing watchdog NICE.

Meanwhile, the "significant retrenchment" of England's £1.2bn Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, "has only worsened a bad situation for patients in the UK", reports PatientView. 

This is because access to new oncology medicines rejected by NICE are being paid for by the CDF, but only in England, leaving patients in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland without the same market access mechanism.

The survey was conducted between November 2014 and January 2015, when the ongoing debate about the affordability of new drugs such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) therapies and targeted cancer drugs - and the ability of health systems to foot the bill - was gaining pace. 

Just 14.3% of UK patient groups indicated that in 2014 the pharma industry was 'excellent' or 'good' at pricing its products fairly, although that did represent an increase from 7% in the previous year.

"Patient groups believe that many more pharma companies should be offering discounts, and pricing their products more affordably to the NHS," according to PatientView. One UK patient group responded to the survey by indicating that pharma should not "hold NICE to ransom".

The survey also suggests the pharma industry's often-claimed efforts to inject patient-centricity into its business model is not ringing true with groups representing patient interests.

Only 18.6% of UK patient groups consider the pharma industry to be 'excellent' or 'good' at taking patients into account in 2014, well below the 30% cited by patient groups from around the world.

PatientView highlights that the company ranked number one for corporate reputation - Sanofi - has a strong track record in developing innovative medicines for diseases with unmet needs, such as Gaucher disease and multiple sclerosis, and seems to be willing to negotiate discounts for the NHS.

"Most important, seems to be the fact that Sanofi priced one of its new diabetes drugs cheaper than competitor products, allowing the NHS to make savings, and to re-direct more funds towards treating diabetes patients," it says.

Sanofi had its new prostate cancer drug Jevtana (cabazitaxel) rejected by NICE but this was added onto the CDF. But in a recent decision NHS England decided to cut this drug, along with 16 others, from its funding stream after the CDF was registering an overspend of more than £80m.

But Sanofi was given a last minute reprieve last month from NHS England when it said it would know in fact reverse its earlier decision and continue to fund Jevtana. NICE will also look again at the drug to see if it can gain regular funding on the NHS. 

Overall, just over 19% of groups surveyed indicated that fair pricing is the most important strategy pharma can adopt to improve its reputation, while a similar proportion indicated patient-centricity was most important.

Article by
Phil Taylor

9th June 2015

From: Healthcare

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