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UK government halts generic drug plans

The UK's coalition government has said it has decided not to progress with plans to replace branded drugs with generic medicines in primary care

The UK's coalition government has said it has decided not to progress with plans to replace branded drugs with generic medicines in primary care.

The announcement, published by the Department of Health (DH), is a response to a 2009 Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) negotiated between the government and the pharmaceutical industry.

The voluntary agreement aims to reduce NHS expenditure on branded medicines by an average of 5 per cent over the next five years. One of its initial proposals was to automatically replace branded drugs for generic versions when dispensing a prescription.

The decision to halt the progress of generic substitution plans followed a public consultation between January 2010 and March 2010, asking for comments regarding several possible options for their implementation.

An analysis of the 423 written responses, as well as 107 additional comments from delegates attended DH listening events, showed no clear consensus, however, on what option was preferred.

Further issues concerning the use of generic substitution were also raised in the consultation, including patient safety; the overall cost-effectiveness; and other ways to support the use of generics.

"We know that there are valuable savings to be made from the use of generic medicines where it is clinically appropriate," said health minister, Lord Howe. "However, we believe that national plans to enforce generic substitution in primary care are too prescriptive."

"We have listened to the concerns from the public, patients and other interested parties about legislative proposals to enable pharmacists to replace a branded medicine with a generic medicine.  It is also not clear whether the proposals would have provided substantial benefit to the NHS, compared to the efforts of frontline staff to implement them."

Responding to the announcement, the Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG) said it was "delighted' by the decision, claiming such plans would have a 'detrimental impact on patients, prescribers, pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry in the UK'.

Leslie Galloway, chairman of EMIG, said: "EMIG members opposed the introduction of generic substitution as they believed it could have hindered patient safety.

"Moreover, EMIG believed that generic substitution would not result in significant savings to the NHS as approximately 83 per cent of drugs are already written generically. Indeed, it may actually have increased the NHS medicines bill by eliminating any incentive for the continued development of medicines that offer greater patient choice as well as value for money to the NHS."

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) also commented on the announcement, stating that the organisation supports the "right mix' of generic and brand medicines in times of economic austerity.

Director-general of the ABPI, Dr Richard Barker, said: "The UK currently ranks amongst the lowest in Europe in the uptake of innovative medicines, despite having amongst the lowest prices.

"The NHS is getting a great deal on both branded and generic medicines and so can use the right mix of the two to reduce the long term burden of disease, and so deliver cost-effective care. This is the right solution for patients, the NHS and for Britain's world-leading life sciences sector."

The DH has said it is looking at other ways to use generic medicines to provide savings where appropriate, as well as looking at how to build on existing initiatives.

The DH announcement:

The response to the public consultation:

14th October 2010

From: Healthcare


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