Intended for healthcare professionals


New agreement on branded drugs for the NHS

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 18 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l266
  1. Huseyin Naci, assistant professor1,
  2. Jennifer Dixon, chief executive2
  1. 1Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  2. 2Health Foundation, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: h.naci{at}

Potential benefits but some missed opportunities

The new Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access began on 1 January and was negotiated between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.1 The scheme replaces the 2014 iteration of the Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulation Scheme.

The new scheme aims to speed up access to cost effective branded drugs for patients. For the NHS, the objectives are to maintain the affordability and predictability of spending, and to deliver value for money. More broadly, the scheme seeks to deliver a net benefit to the UK economy overall, support the UK life sciences industry (including pharmaceutical companies), and encourage innovation.

On speeding up access, the scheme allows enhanced horizon scanning for new drugs and substantially faster assessment by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) of “the most transformative and best value drugs.” By 2020, NICE will expand its scope substantially by reviewing essentially all new drugs approved by drug licensing agencies in addition to most …

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