NHS too focused on pharmaceutical ‘winners’

 The NHS is placing too much emphasis on ‘breakthrough drugs’ rather than on diverse and incremental innovation, according to the ABPI.

An updated report on pharmaceutical innovation commissioned by the UK trade association warns that by focusing on unique medical solutions, the NHS risks narrowing the scope of medicines.

ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead (pictured), launching the report, commented: “I fear for the future of UK medical research.”

The Many Faces of Innovation was commissioned by the ABPI from the Office of Healthcare Economics, updating a 2005 report commissioned by EFPIA.

As well as providing new case studies, the updated report places pharmaceutical innovation in the context of the UK health economy of 2012.

The report attacks the dichotomy between ‘breakthrough’ and ‘me-too’ products, arguing that innovation can be incremental – especially where ‘stratified’ medicine is concerned.

In addition, innovation has several dimensions: it could bring “advances in health gains”, “cost savings in health services” or “advances in patients’ and/or carers’ convenience”.

Finally, medical research benefits from multiple companies tackling the same problem – so it’s not helpful for there to be only one ‘winner’.

The report implicitly criticises NICE for assuming that each medical problem has one ‘best’ solution and that ‘value’ has a single metric.

The forthcoming medicine pricing negotiations will mark a watershed for the industry, Whitehead said: “If we minimise the reward for innovation in the UK, then our manufacturers will go abroad. Our industry, our economy, and our healthcare system will suffer – UK patients will suffer.”