The new Health Service Medical Supplies Bill has completed its path through Parliament and is now law. David Watson, ABPI Director of Pricing & PPRS, analyses the key aspects of the new legislation, the areas where ABPI had concerns, the immediate relevance to industry and where we will continue to focus.
When introducing the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill to the House of Commons in October last year, the Secretary of State set out that the purpose of the Bill was to 'secure better value for money for the NHS from its spend on medicines'. More specifically, the Bill was intended to give the Government powers to reduce the price of unbranded generic medicines if the competitive market is not appropriately functioning in the case of a small number of specific products.
The Bill contained measures in three main areas:
The ABPI supports the Government in taking action on the issue of specific, significant price rises where necessary. However, we were concerned that the Bill wouldn't consider the impact on the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and patient access to new medicines. We were particularly concerned that the Bill was being proposed at a time when a number of other changes to medicines were being implemented and consulted on, including changes to the NICE assessment process.
Our concerns focused around the following issues:
The ABPI set out our concerns in written and oral evidence to the Bill Committee and made our concerns clear to Ministers and the Department of Health. We worked with MPs and Peers from all parties to ensure that the Bill received a thorough debate in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and that the issues that we were concerned about were addressed. As part of this, the ABPI supported a number of cross party amendments to the Bill on both the information provisions and the need for the Bill to consider the impact of the measures it contains on patient access to new medicines and the strength of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK.
“The ABPI supports the Government in tackling excessive profiteering and of the closure of a loophole which has allowed large price hikes to a small number of NHS medicines. Measures in the Bill will help tackle this important issue.
In addition, we are pleased that the Government has listened to concerns from the pharmaceutical industry, and has amended the Bill to ensure the powers it contains are proportionate.
The ABPI looks forward to working with the Government on the detail of the Bill.”
David Watson, ABPI Director of Pricing and PPRS
As the Bill entered the House of Lords, the Government brought forward a number of amendments which sought to address the concerns that the ABPI had set out and that were raised during the parliamentary debates.
Firstly, the Government brought forward an amendment which would require an 'information notice' to be served before any company is required to submit further evidence. This was intended to be a reasonable check in the system to restrict the Department of Health asking for vast quantities of onerous data from pharmaceutical companies.
Secondly, the Government brought forward an amendment to require the Department of Health to hold a consultation on the impact that any changes to the statutory medicines pricing scheme would have on the life sciences sector and on patient access to new medicines.
The ABPI has welcomed the Government's amendments which seek to address our key concerns with the Bill.
With much of the detail of how the Bill will work to be finalised through regulations, it will be important that this detail does not impact negatively on the strength of the life sciences industry in the UK and does not negatively impact on patient access to new medicines. This is particularly important in the context of the work already done on a new industrial strategy for life sciences and with a new PPRS to start in 2019.
The ABPI will be working closely with our members and with the Department of Health to ensure that we get these details right.