The ABPI says industry, NICE, and NHS England need to get round the table for talks on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
16 May 2016 Posted in By Press Office
Dr Richard Torbett, Executive Director - Commercial, was a guest on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning with Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now. He spoke on how there is a recognition by pharmaceutical companies of the need to offer value for money to the NHS and that NICE is an important part of the system. The ABPI recognises that cancer patients in England face difficulties accessing medicines what are routinely availabe in Europe and on our doorstep in Scotland and agree that a solution needs to be found. He said that industry is eager to be part of that conversation, to improve flexibility, by working in partnership with NICE and NHS England.
Listen to the discussion or read the transcript below.
Transcript: BBC Today Programme, 16 May 2016
Baroness Delyth Morgan (DM), Chief Executive, Breast Cancer Now
Dr Richard Torbett (RT), Executive Director – Commercial, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
The Cancer Drugs Fund was created to do just what it said on the label – to fund cancer drugs – which the NHS might not normally be prepared to pay for. It bypassed the value for money test normally applied to new treatments by NICE – the body which decides which drugs and treatments the health service in England can afford.
Today 15 cancer charities have written to David Cameron warning him not to abandon the idea he launched when he first became Prime Minister.
I'm joined by Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, one of the signatories to a letter in the papers today, and also to Dr Richard Torbett, the executive director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Morning to you both
Both: Good morning
Baroness Morgan, what is your worry? That essentially the Cancer Drugs Fund, which was supposed to bypass NICE, is effectively going to be over?
DM: Cancer Drugs Fund was set up because the NICE system wasn't working for modern cancer treatments. So what I'm worried about, and what the other cancer charities that we work with are so worried about, is that very soon we're going to see cancer patients who have potentially incurable cancer missing out on modern treatments that are available in other countries or across the border in the UK.
And yet isn't there a problem inherent in this fund - it has massively increased spending. In the past six years spending went up from £175m to £416m and one extra treatment for one cancer sufferer is almost certainly one cancelled treatment for somebody else.
DM: Of course any system, any new system, has to be sustainable and it needs to be fair. But what's important here is that we are going back to a system that hasn't changed significantly since the Cancer Drugs Fund was introduced and what we need is we need the Prime Minister to intervene to help bring together the Department of Health, NICE, and industry, to come up with a really flexible workable solution.
What does that mean in practice? In other words if you don't want the current system, you accept it's spending too much, you certainly don't want to go back to the old system, what do you want?
DM: Well, the current system, the Cancer Drugs Fund that has now been brought to an end, we don't have that option. We're moving back to the NICE system that was introduced in 1999 – that's the problem, it hasn't changed significantly. There's still a problem and we're going back to it.
Ok let's bring in Dr Richard Torbett of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Forgive me, you know I'm going to ask you this, it's your fault isn't it? In other words, drugs in this country that do deal with cancer we often, in the NHS, pay double what someone will pay in another country for precisely the same drug
RT: Well I'd certainly contest the fact that we pay double but price is clearly part of the equation here. I think there is a real recognition on the part of pharmaceutical companies that they need to offer value for money for the NHS, that's why we have NICE. NICE is a very important part of the system in terms of scrutinising the value for money of our products. But there has been a problem in cancer as Baroness Morgan outlined here.
But let me give you an example – Tiva for breast cancer, $36,000 in the UK, $17,000 in Thailand. Sprycel for leukaemia, $33,000 in the UK, $15,000 in Brazil. That is more than double.
RT: Well I can't verify those numbers but what I would say is that I think it's quite right that different countries pay different prices and I'm not surprised at all that poorer countries pay less for medicines. That's extremely important. We can only afford to charge very low prices in very poor countries if the richer countries of the world are paying their share and we're in the fifth largest economy in the world here.
So is your argument to government you simply are going to have to spend more if you want the cancer drugs you say you want, doctors say they want, patients are demanding – tough, pay the bill.
RT: I think there's two things and actually think that there's a lot of recognition from companies that this is an extremely difficult challenge for the NHS. Companies want to sit down with the NHS and NICE and find a way of getting access to patients. We're willing to come to the table but I do think in coming to the table the Government also needs to assess are we investing enough in cancer
Baroness Morgan, how do you avoid simply lobbying the government to put more money and more profits into his members pockets?
DM: Well we've been lobbying the pharma companies as well. We know that there's a real problem in getting the best drugs to patients. What we need is a flexible system where there can be negotiation, where it will be fair because it's happening in cancer now, it could happen in other conditions soon in the future as well, so it's absolutely vital for a modern health service to have access to modern treatments.
Do you accept that there is a danger that we put cancer on a sort of, if you like, spending pedestal? That there are many illnesses that are horrendous for people to have. Cancer clearly often is, I speak with knowledge of it, but is it right really to say cancer is different, cancer is special?
DM: Well what's happening in cancer research at the moment is leading towards much more personalised treatments that don't fit with the processes that we have for value evaluation now. So it has to change and it has to improve.
And last quick word?
RT: Last quick word is we manage to somehow do a deal in most countries so that patients get access to medicines, including on our own doorstep in Scotland where there is more flexibility. We'd like to see that flexibility in the UK and we're willing to come to the table.
Dr Richard Torbett, Baroness Delyth Morgan, thank you for joining us.