Big pharma strikes blow to NHS patients’ hopes of getting breakthrough drugs

NHS patients risk missing out on breakthrough drug treatments after two leading pharmaceutical companies pulled out of the UK’s official pricing scheme. Eli Lilly and

AbbVie have left the voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access (VPAS), a long-standing agreement between the Government, NHS and medicine manufacturers designed to

limit the cost of drugs for the health service while supporting industry innovation. The scheme caps the health service’s branded medicines bill, meaning that all drug

manufacturers face a charge if the bill rises more than two per cent annually.  The cost of that charge has risen rapidly in recent years as demand for NHS treatment has

grown. As of Dec 2022, the payback rate was set at 26.5 per cent. Before the pandemic, the rate was about five per cent. Charges put UK ‘out of step’ with the

world The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), the medicines trade body, said the increase puts the UK “out of step” with global competitors, with European

countries such as Germany having rates of just nine per cent. It came after the Government launched its 10-year “Life Sciences Vision” in 2021 to “accelerate the delivery of

life-changing innovations to patients” and make the UK a “science superpower”. However, pharmaceutical companies said that the “punishing” charges are forcing them to reduce

their footprint, research and development, and manufacturing investments in the UK. Meanwhile, the number of clinical trials initiated in the UK every year fell by more than

two-fifths between 2017 and 2021.