Cancer Research UK welcomes new NHS drugs deal

In collaboration with the Press Association

The government has announced a new deal with the pharmaceutical industry which should allow more patients to benefit from a wider range of innovative drug treatments.

Cancer Research UK has welcomed the move, which will mean that branded drugs will be more fairly priced and industry innovations will be rewarded, making drugs more affordable and giving patients faster access to new treatments.

The agreement includes a 3.9 per cent cut in the cost of drugs sold to the NHS from February 2009 and a further 1.9 per cent cut in January 2010.

Flexibility introduced to the pricing system means that new drugs will be available at lower initial prices, with the option for pharmaceutical companies to increase prices if the drugs are proven to be effective.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said that a more flexible approach to drug pricing is in everyone's interest.

"It gets clinically and cost-effective drugs to more patients - providing cheaper options where clinically appropriate - delivers value for money for the NHS and the taxpayer, and creates a better market for the pharmaceutical industry while supporting research and innovation," Mr Johnson said.

"Patient access schemes together with flexible pricing of pharmaceuticals will also enable the NHS to offer more patients a wider range of more expensive drugs as recommended by the National Cancer Director Mike Richards in his recent report on improving access to medicines for NHS patients," he added.

Dr Richard Barker, director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said that the landmark deal marked a "turning point" for patients, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry.

He described the solution as "an all-encompassing package that encourages the discovery of new, more effective medicines, while at the same time allowing NHS patients to access these treatments more quickly".

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, commented: "This new deal is a significant step forward in helping cancer patients access the most appropriate drugs for their treatment.

"Crucially, the government and the pharmaceutical industry have together recognised the need for a fair pricing scheme - one that assesses a drug's value based on its effects on patients.

"Importantly, this deal adds flexibility to drug pricing, so the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will be able to recommend more new cancer drugs for use in the NHS."

Harpal Kumar continued: "We believe that pharmaceutical companies with confidence in the new treatments they are developing shouldn't be frightened of schemes aimed at pricing treatments according to their benefit.

"Cancer Research UK is pleased to see this long-awaited agreement, which builds on recent government announcements on access to cancer treatment. It will ensure that more cancer patients receive the best possible treatment for their disease."

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