Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Important negotiations on medicines provision about to start

Andy Hopkinson | 16th March 2023

Our Chief Executive, Dr Tom Nutt, has stressed the importance of negotiations about to start between the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and Government for a sustainable approach to medicines provision, whilst maximising the potential of the UK life sciences industry

Important negotiations on medicines provision about to start

Ahead of the negotiations the ABPI has published the industry’s vision for a new agreement with the government, which it says will deliver for patients, the NHS and the economy.

The industry’s proposals for a new Voluntary Scheme for Pricing, Access and Growth (VPAG) would, it says, deliver a sustainable approach to medicines provision while also maximising the potential of the UK life sciences industry as an engine for growth. 

The proposals include measures to ensure rapid patient access and adoption of new medicines, as well as opportunities to improve health outcomes and productivity for the whole country.

Boost to the NHS

Their offer includes an annual £1bn boost to the NHS, as well as an additional £1bn new investment facility to maximise the potential of the UK’s health and life science ecosystem.

Tom, who sits on the ABPI’s Patient Advisory Council to help steer and broaden the Association’s thinking, ensuring a more patient-centric future strategy, policy and priorities, has stressed the importance of the negotiations and urged both sides to focus on the beneficial outcomes they can deliver for people in the UK – in other words, providing better access to lifesaving drugs and therapies that can improve health and wellbeing and the longer-term vital importance of ensuring a collaborative ecosystem for research.

“As a medical charity the risk to research and development spend on the life sciences in the UK is a great concern to us.

Lifesaving importance of innovation

“Through our own research programmes and campaigns to promote the development and use of vaccines, we have seen the lifesaving importance of scientific and medical innovation. This underpins the UK’s position of having a world-leading vaccine programme. 

“As the government and ABPI begin their negotiations to update the VPAG scheme, we would encourage both sides to focus on the beneficial outcomes for people in the UK – in other words, access to lifesaving drugs and therapies than can improve health and wellbeing and of the importance of a collaborative ecosystem for research – one that recognises the important roles played by industry, the NHS and medical research charities, as well as patients and people themselves. 

“It's only through this collaboration that a thriving life sciences industry can be supported and sustained.”

Four key areas

The proposals outlined by the ABPI fall into four key areas: restoring an internationally competitive commercial environment for life sciences; supporting UK clinical research and R&D; ensuring rapid patient access and uptake of new medicines; and improving population health and productivity through health innovation. It says progress in all of these areas is essential if the needs of patients the NHS and industry are to be met.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive at the ABPI, said: “The life sciences industry in the UK stands at a crossroads. The current direction of travel is leading away from success and we must act urgently to turn this around. A new Voluntary Scheme for Pricing, Access and Growth provides the opportunity for a new settlement, placing the UK’s life sciences sector back on the path for future growth.

“Securing this vision will require a new mindset and approach from government, system partners and industry. It will require building on the partnership and trust forged during the pandemic. It will require learning from successes and recognising that real progress comes from drawing on the strengths and experience of both the public and the private sectors. 

“Working together, we can create the conditions for innovative medicines to deliver their true value as an investment in the nation’s future health, wealth and productivity.”

UK losing out

Today, the ABPI says the UK is losing out on investments in manufacturing and research, clinical trial numbers are falling, and there is a real risk NHS patients will be forced to wait for, or not get access to, medicines available in Europe.

The commercial environment facing companies operating in the UK is the principal driver of this decline, particularly the rapid rise in the revenue tax stipulated through the existing Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS). 

As recently as 2021 the VPAS rebate meant companies paid around 5% of revenue earned from medicine sales to the NHS back to the government. But in 2022 it rose to 15% and in 2023 to 26.5%. 

Read more about the ABPI proposals to support the NHS and economic growth.

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines and vaccines. It represents companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. Members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. It works in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines.

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