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The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has made strong claims recently that the UK Pharma industry must stop talking about the affordability of drugs “behind closed doors” and should instead make itself open to questions over medicine pricing.

Alison Clough, acting chief executive of the ABPI, made the statement at the same time as claiming that the issues surrounding the affordability of drugs has grown exponentially over the past year.

Professor Adrian Towse, director of the ABPI-funded Office of Health Economics (OHE) believes one of the main reasons Pharma needs to change its approach to drug pricing is due to the need for a return on investment on Pharma’s R&D.  He claimed the current research model for pricing isn’t broken, but rather suggested that Pharma is now more interested in developing drugs for more diseases that matter to payers – something Towse believes is risky business, particularly as figures suggest productivity over the past 20 years has declined, despite a rise in R&D expenditure.

With only 11% of drugs that enter phase 1 testing expected to make it to approval, Towse suggests we are now merely “paying for failure”.

In 2014, the PPRS deal allowed Pharma to set prices in the UK, but stipulated that it must pay back any money accrued over a given growth limit. This limit was flat in 2014. However, Clough believes that in 2015 this rebate will more than double to £800m, meaning there will be more money to pay for new medicines. The NHS also needs to play a pivotal part in allowing new medicines pass through to patients as quickly as possible, according to Clough.

And it’s not just the ABPI who have issues with the way NICE prices drugs in the UK. Sir Andrew Witty, GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive aired his own concerns about the drug pricing systems to the health secretary and other Whitehall officials in 2013, according to PMLiVE, who recently used the Freedom of Information Act to attain minutes from the meeting.

Experts from the University of York health science teams have also voiced their concerns over the pricing of medicines in the UK, arguing that prices are higher here than in many other countries due to ‘successive governments’ desires to support the pharmaceutical science base and exports’. To help solve this issue they have called for greater transparency on negotiations on drug pricing and other regulatory processes, including patent protection.

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