Medicines play a vital role in the health of our nation. Innovative medicines and treatments transform the lives of people suffering from life-threatening illnesses and long-term conditions.
An ageing population and the increasing demand for medicines that come with it, combined with a tough financial climate has meant that the health service and its staff are under tremendous pressure. It is therefore more important than ever that the NHS and patients get the best value from its investment in medicines.
Recent discussions in the media of the need to tackle “unnecessary” treatment miss the point. Patients who don’t need a medicine should not be prescribed one, just as patients who do need treatment should have access to the best available medicine. Currently, the latter is proving to be the greater challenge. In the UK, patient access to new medicines is low and slow by international standards. For the first five years after the launch of a new medicine, people in the UK are significantly less likely to have access to it than people living in other countries. On average UK uptake for new medicines is 14% of the average compared to other countries in the first year of launch. English patients are struggling to get effective medicines that are available in many other parts of the world.
We also need to ensure that patients are taking their medicines and taking them correctly. Up to fifty percent of all medicines aren’t taken correctly and £300 million is lost to medicines waste in primary care every year with half of this being preventable. To address these problems, patients need to understand and feel in control of the medicines they are prescribed, and healthcare professionals need support to make clinically-driven and evidence-based decisions.
Both industry and the NHS have a shared goal to promote appropriate and evidence-based prescribing that will lead to a positive outcome for patients. Our joint PPRS-Medicines Optimisation programme with NHS England addresses these issues by putting the patient at the centre. Ultimately, issues around waste, incorrect use, access to new medicines, and evidence-based prescribing all share this one goal: to ensure the right patients get the right choice of medicine at the right time. That is what ‘medicines optimisation’ is all about.
Over the last few months we have held a series of roadshows in partnership with the Academic Health Science Networks to talk about the importance of medicines optimisation, share best practice on medicine use and to publicise the unique opportunity presented by the 2014 Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS). The PPRS agreement is a five-year agreement between industry and government where industry has agreed to underwrite the growth in branded medicines, within agreed boundaries through direct industry payments to the Department of Health – a guarantee that enables prescribing decisions to be based on clinical factors rather than on a need to cut costs. We are gathering feedback from patient representatives and clinicians to remedy the problem that patients do not feel they have enough information about their treatments, and working with AHSNs to encourage local stakeholders to develop medicines optimisation strategies for their health economies. By the end of programme, each region will have its own strategy.
This approach is best for the public purse, because it makes sure medicines deliver value for money – and best for patients – as it ensures that they can have access to the most effective medicine and when patients are put in control of their treatments they are more likely to take them properly and experience better outcomes.
Alison CloughActing CEO and Executive Director – Commercial UK