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ABPI dissatisfied with ECJ ruling

The ABPI has expressed disappointment with a European Court of Justice ruling on the legality of financial incentives for doctors to switch treatments

The UK's Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has expressed its disappointment with the European Court of Justice's (ECJ's) decision on April 22, 2010 that public bodies forming part of a national public health service are not precluded from implementing schemes which offer financial inducements to doctors to switch patients from a named medicine A to named medicine B in the same therapeutic class.

Under such schemes, British medical practices are rewarded for switching patients to cheap unpatented drugs or prescribing them to new patients.

The ECJ's judgement goes against the opinion of Advocate General Nilo Jääskinen delivered on February 11, which supported claims made by the ABPI against the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that the prescribing incentive schemes operated by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are in fact prohibited under Article 94(1) of European Directive 2001/83.

The court's decision, however, was that the prohibition could not apply to national public health authorities who have the responsibility of controlling public expenditure.

In a written statement, the ABPI says it believes patients should have total confidence that when their doctor is making prescribing decisions those decisions are, and are seen to be, completely independent of personal financial considerations and that the ECJ interpretation of the legislation risks this being put in doubt.

The ABPI will now consider the implications of this judgment in relation to its case, which is proceeding in the High Court.

22nd April 2010

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