New drugs to be fast-tracked, NHS to save almost 1 billion pounds under UK deal with pharmaceutical industry

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with the UK government that would allow patients to access "cutting edge and best value" medicines up to six months earlier through a fast-tracked approvals process. Further, the ABPI said the NHS across the UK is also expected to save around 930 million pounds ($1.2 billion) on its drug bill next year under the new voluntary scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access, which is set to come into effect in January. 

The group noted that while details are still being finalised, "a major milestone" has been reached in talks between the two parties that would see "the most transformative and best value medicines made available on the NHS more quickly through better horizon scanning, earlier commercial dialogue and faster appraisals from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence." 

Specifically, the 2019 voluntary scheme calls for implementing a 2-percent cap on the growth in sales of branded medicines to the NHS, with drugmakers repaying the NHS for spending over that limit. The ABPI said the deal also enables "faster and more flexible" commercial negotiations to get new medicines into use as quickly as possible, while simplifying price controls by "reducing unpredictability and complexity for companies and the NHS." Further, it indicated that the agreement aims to "[support] smaller companies to innovate through payment exemptions and targeted case management through NHS England commercial discussions." 

Richard Torbett, executive director for commercial policy at the ABPI, said the pharmaceutical industry would have preferred a "better deal," but that it nevertheless "strikes the right balance" given the financial situation of the NHS. "This agreement will give the NHS total certainty that the sales of branded medicines won't grow at more than 2 percent in any of the next five years," he remarked. 

Meanwhile, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that "the deal will also ensure the UK remains an attractive hub for research and investment so the next generation of ground-breaking treatments can be developed here with patients benefitting earlier." Negotiations will continue towards a full agreement, which is expected to be published in due course, the ABPI said. 

Earlier this month, the group commented on the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement outlining the UK's future relationship with the EU, saying it "welcomed the agreement of a transition period, which will enable companies to get medicines to patients in March 2019," when the UK is scheduled to exit to bloc. 

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