Drug industry guidance opens door to drug access schemes

Drug companies will be permitted to sign deals with GP consortia to improve patient access to expensive drugs under the drug industry's latest code of practice.

Guidance in the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) 2011 code give ‘reassurance’ that companies can arrange such deals with the NHS, according to the body.

Known as patient access schemes and risk sharing agreements, these deals can help improve patients access to drugs deemed too expensive by NICE. Companies are only paid if the treatment delivers positive patient outcomes.

At present, PCTs arrange such deals and this responsibility will likely pass to consortia under the NHS reforms.

This is the first time guidance to the code has referenced these deals, but these are expected to become more common under the government’s proposed value based pricing scheme.

Patient access schemes must be approved by the DoH and are then evaluated by NICE before being made available nationally.

The DoH is currently reviewing patient access schemes as part of the planned update to Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This includes proposals to introduce value based pricing when the current scheme expires in 2013.

A DoH spokesman said: ‘Risk sharing schemes have been successful in helping to increase patient access to important new drugs.

‘[The review] presents an opportunity to learn from our experiences of pricing flexibilities and to work with industry and the NHS to tackle any issues,’ he added.

A spokeswoman for the ABPI said: ‘No clauses in the ABPI code of practice have been changed, but guidance was added to the 2011 edition of the code to provide reassurance on how risk sharing schemes or patient access schemes should operate in line with the code.’

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