New agreement on branded drugs for the NHSBMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l266 (Published 18 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l266
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Your editorial piece on 'New agreement on branded drugs for the NHS' (BMJ 2019;364:l266) highlights the importance of the new voluntary scheme for branded medicines.
One aspect the article didn’t accurately reflect was the claim that NHS spending on medicines has been rising sharply. This is true in some areas, for example in specialised medicines, where the increased spend is because of a wave of new treatment options. But overall NHS spend on branded medicines has been capped to agreed limits. Over the last five years pharmaceutical companies paid back £2.8 billion to maintain spend to the agreed limit.
We now have a similar agreement for the next five years with the Department of Health where the pharmaceutical industry will again pay back spend above the limit agreed. The new scheme does not limit profits, which would be somewhat irrelevant anyway because the UK is only a small proportion of a global industry, but under the scheme the NHS branded medicines bill will not increase by more than 2%, anything above this is repaid by industry. The agreement to a fixed level of growth is a very significant one, supporting the use of the most innovative, cost-effective medicines for the NHS, whilst giving both sides predictability.
Your editorial rightly recognises the connection between this deal and the NHS approach to commercial agreements. We look forward to working with NHS England on a new ‘commercial framework’ which both sides wanted to develop to improve visibility and clarity of the interaction between the NHS and pharmaceutical companies.
Industry and the NHS have one thing in common, which is the need to ensure that UK patients have access to the latest most cost-effective medicines. The NHS across the UK has sometimes not been able to meet this challenge as well as other countries in Europe. Through this new 5-year deal, we have an agreement which addresses many of the challenges to access and uptake of the latest medicines in the UK.
Competing interests: No competing interests