Intended for healthcare professionals


NHS England explores funding options for cystic fibrosis drug

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 17 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5600
  1. Deborah Cohen
  1. BBC Newsnight

NHS England is “committed to exploring and developing alternative routes” to enable people with cystic fibrosis to access Orkambi (ivacaftor-lumacaftor) on the NHS if Vertex, the US company that markets it, does not price the drug “fairly and responsibly,” a spokesperson has said.

The statement comes after the Scottish government agreed a deal with Vertex to provide around 400 people with cystic fibrosis access to Orkambi and Symkevi (ivacaftor-tezacaftor).1

There are several options open to the NHS if it fails to reach an agreement with Vertex.

These include suspending the patent and proceeding with a crown use licence—meaning that another company can manufacture the drug. Or NHS England could avoid the patent by using a research exemption to import an existing generic version of Orkambi to use in a clinical trial.

The UK has …

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