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It`s a bit obvious, but what is the most vulnerable cost in primary care when cuts are in the air? In general practice it`s got to be medicines. The total cost of branded medicines in the NHS as a whole is £12bn of which much is prescribed by GPs. Now, the suppliers themselves are being asked to cough up the savings.
The deal, which will replace the current pricing scheme for branded medicines, will see current NHS drug spending frozen for two years. The pharmaceutical industry will 'absorb' any additional cost beyond this limit, the DH said. There had previously been an agreed price cut on the branded medicines sold to the NHS, but there was no limit on the overall cost. The updated Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) will now push the cuts onto the industry and away from the NHS.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'This agreement ensures NHS patients will receive the best and most advanced medicines in the world while managing the cost. 'UK pharmaceutical companies have responded to the challenges we face as a country, both in terms of the increased demand for medicines and pressure on public spending. I hope in return we have given them the certainty and backing they need to flourish as a sector both here and in the global market.'
The DH said NHS costs for branded medicines had risen 5% per year on average over previous years and that the deal would lead to 'significant savings'. The programme remains voluntary, but the DH has said the statutory scheme for companies that do not take part will ensure a 15% price cut for the NHS. The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) is a voluntary scheme usually re-negotiated every five years. This scheme applies to all licensed prescription medicines to which the manufacturer has applied a brand name.
ABPI president Deepak Khana added: "It should not be underestimated how tough this deal is for the industry. "The negotiations were built on a myth that medicines are expensive in the UK, which is not true. The UK already spends amongst the lowest on medicines as a percentage of [gross domestic product] and has some of the lowest prices in Europe, yet UK patients still do not always get access to the most innovative medicines."
Will this affect us? I don`t think so. Will this affect patient care? I think there will be an increase in choice. Watch this space!
Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert GP Contributor