UK Report: Keep Calm and Carry On ... Differently - Pharmaceutical Executive


UK Report: Keep Calm and Carry On ... Differently

Pharmaceutical Executive

Samantha Pearce, General Manager, UK and Ireland, Celgene
One of the loudest voices heard during the exercise was that of innovative pharmaceutical companies who are already at odds with the NHS due to the country's lethargic uptake of new medicines and increasingly low prices (both among the lowest in Europe), exacerbated by the alleged 85% penetration rate of generic drugs (one of the highest in the region). The industry fears that the proposed VBP system, which will replace the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS), will further limit the reimbursement of new treatments by the NHS. Under the PPRS, "companies were allowed to include their assets as part of the calculation that determined the amount of profit they could make in the country. This was extremely valuable for the pharmaceutical companies who were conducting research in the UK because those investments were then rewarded by the commercial environment," explains Sanofi UK general manager Steve Oldfield. Alternatively, the VBP scheme sets out to assess the value of a medicine holistically by taking into account its benefits to the patient and wider healthcare system correlated to the overall cost burden for the NHS. In theory this is meant to reward innovation and improve the uptake of new treatments, but skepticism prevails. Mark Jones, marketing company president for AstraZeneca UK, concludes that "While VBP aims to improve the valuation of new medical technologies it does nothing to address the issue of the fragmentation of the wider healthcare system. The pricing scheme will not change the fact that products will still have to go through all these layers of approval before they reach patients."

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), explains that "what the government wants to do is to make sure that the price the NHS pays for new pharmaceuticals properly reflects their value, which is an ambition that NICE shares." As the organization responsible for evaluating whether a new drug should be reimbursed by the NHS or not, NICE can be somewhat divisive among the pharmaceutical industry. Sir Andrew counters that "while NICE is sometimes criticized for restricting access to treatments and pharmaceuticals in particular, everything NICE has done represents a net benefit to the NHS. Contrary to some beliefs, the vast majority (83%) of NICE's recommendations are positive." The reality is that no one is yet sure what VBP will look like nor whether it will be advantageous to the pharmaceutical industry in the long run.

Stephen Whitehead, CEO, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)
Samantha Pearce, general manager of Celgene UK and Ireland, is optimistic in her interpretation of the ongoing discussions and how they will affect her company. "The reality is that the reimbursement environment in the UK will always be a challenge, but what encourages me about the VBP discussion is that the rhetoric is centered on innovation. As long as Celgene remains committed to providing truly innovative products that add value to the health of patients, then I think our aim will be parallel to that of the authorities. In our commitment to seeing this happen we are persistent and creative to engage all the relevant stakeholders that will ultimately make the decisions. It is essential for us to understand where they are coming from and vice-versa. We knew from the beginning that it would be a long journey, because the therapeutic areas that our products operate in are quite complex," she concludes. With growth at 40% for the first half of 2011, it is quite apparent that Celgene has in fact managed to communicate and find common ground with UK health authorities.


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Source: Pharmaceutical Executive,
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