New figures from the UK pharma industry claim the sector has contributed more than £1bn to the NHS as part of the Pharmaceutical Payment Regulation Scheme (PPRS).
The PPRS controls the price of branded medicines in the NHS and results from a negotiation between the UK government and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), as the representative body for those companies supplying the NHS with medicines.
Since 2013, UK pharma firms have been given strict limits and must pay the NHS back any money they make over the agreed limit in the form of a rebate. The idea is to help make new drug treatments more affordable for the NHS and give UK patients the same level of access to new medicines as other EU countries.
All told, the ABPI expects the industry's contribution over the current five-year PPRS period to reach £3bn, helping to ensure "more NHS patients can benefit from NICE approved medicines", according to ABPI executive director Richard Torbett.
Towards the end of last year, the ABPI agreed a new arrangement with the UK government in which it brought forward around £200m of the estimated payments for 2017/18 in to the 2015/16 period. The aim was to assist the NHS' Five Year Forward View initiative.
Access barriers still in place
Despite contributions from industry, new medicines approved as clinically and cost effective by NICE are not always being adopted and used by the NHS locally, says the ABPI.
The overall NHS spend on branded medicines covered under the PPRS scheme is essentially flat - coming in at £2.14bn in 2014/15 and £2.15nn in 2015/16, it adds.
"To ensure we are making the most of this opportunity, we need to sit down with colleagues in the Department of Health and the NHS and establish how to remove barriers which are currently preventing the NHS from effectively rolling out the use of these new treatments" says Torbett.
"We hope that the government's independent Accelerated Access Review … will provide an opportunity to address some of these issues."
The AAR was announced by Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman in November 2014 after it became apparent that plans to replace the PPRS with a value-based pricing model - along with reforms to NICE procedures - were unlikely to solve issues surrounding new medicines access in the NHS. At last count the review was scheduled for publication in April of this year.