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Drug pricing: Could Labour’s “radical” plan work?

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 04 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5788
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

A necessary reform or a threat to research? Elisabeth Mahase investigates

At its annual conference in Brighton last week the Labour Party announced a new plan that it claimed would reduce drug prices and ensure that NHS patients were not denied access to treatment because of cost.1

The party pledged that if it were elected it would use compulsory licensing to enable access to generic versions of patented drugs where the patented versions were unavailable. In the longer term, it promised to create a publicly owned company to manufacture generic drugs.

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the party wanted to “redesign the system to serve public health, not private wealth.”

NHS locked in dispute

The announcement comes with drug pricing very much in the news. NHS England remains in dispute with the company Vertex over the high price it wants for the cystic fibrosis treatment Orkambi (ivacaftor with lumacaftor). The two parties are talking. But while Scotland has been able to reach a deal,2 NHS England has said that Vertex’s price, amounting to £105 000 (€123 000; $138 000) a patient for a …

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