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UK lags behind other countries in use of branded drugs

ABPI claims use of innovative new treatments is lower than international average in seven out of 11 classes

UK flagPatients in the UK tend to receive fewer medicines than those in other countries and, when prescribed, the drugs used are generally older, says an industry report.

The research by the Office of Health Economics (OHE) - which receives funding from the drug industry as well as other sources - says that the UK ranked ninth among 13 high-income countries for medicine usage per person.

The study was designed to replicate the methods used to compile 2010 Richards Report, which found a mixed pattern for medicines usage in the UK, with below-average use in some therapeutic categories and above-average use in others.

It has found that - when comparing 2012/2013 to the earlier data - the UK has slipped down the usage rankings for categories such as acute myocardial infarction therapy and statin use but has also risen in other areas such as cancer, dementia and osteoporosis.

In seven of the 11 classes of medicine covered, the UK usage per person was however below the international average for 2012/13. This included the latest cancer medicines (less than five years old) as well as drugs for dementia, multiple sclerosis and stroke prevention.

For cancer medicines more than 10 years old, medicines for osteoporosis, respiratory distress syndrome and wet age-related macular degeneration, the UK's use was higher than the international average, which the report says reflects "a reliance on older medicines."

Overall, the International Comparison of Medicines Usage (ICM) report - which was sponsored by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) - shows an increase in usage per person for 11 of the 16 therapy classes surveyed, with France maintaining its position at number one and New Zealand trailing at position 13. The overall rankings for all countries are given below:

CountryOverall rank
France1
Spain2
USA3
Austria4
Italy5
Canada6
Switzerland7
Australia8
UK9
Germany10
Norway11
Sweden12
New Zealand13

The authors say the purpose of the report is to inform discussions between the ABPI and Department of Health (DH) on how to "benchmark the relative usage of NICE positively appraised medicines comparing the UK with other countries," which they note was a commitment of the 2009 Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS).

David Watson, director of pricing reimbursement at the ABPI, said: "Whilst this report highlights an improvement in ranking for the use of some medicines and a decline in just a few areas, overall the UK has remained static in the bottom half of the table."

The results are "disappointing given the number of initiatives in place since 2009 to improve patient access to newer medicines," he added. 

Article by
Phil Taylor

28th November 2014

From: Sales, Healthcare

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