News

HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 7 December 2017

Media and Political Bulletin

7 December 2017

Media Summary

Patients hit by shortage of drugs as prices soar

The Times, Billy Kenber and Chris Smyth, 7 December 2017

 

The Times reports that generics shortages have cost the NHS £180 million in six months. The publication highlights that at least 100 drugs have been affected by supply issues, which has forced health officials to approve temporary prices of up to 4,000 per cent to boost stocks.

The NHS is spending more than £50 million a month overpaying for the medicines but pharmacies are still consistently running out of supplies for days at a time and having to turn patients away, according to the article.

Martin Sawer, Executive Director of the HDA, reiterated to The Times that price rises had nothing to do with large wholesalers manipulating the market but he called for more scrutiny of smaller wholesale licence-holders. “Our members do not sit on stock, they make generics available to customers as soon as they get them,” he said.

 

Drugmakers line up to invest in UK life sciences

PharmaTimes, Selina McKee, 6 December 2017

 

PharmaTimes highlights that GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have announced significant investment in the UK as part of the government’s sector deal for the life sciences industry.

GSK has said that it would stream £40 million of new investment into initiatives that harness advances in genetic research in the development of novel medicines. The investment will support the sequencing of data from all 500,000 volunteer participants in the UK Biobank, beyond the first 50,000 subset announced earlier this year.

AstraZeneca, which is investing £500 million in its new strategic R&D centre and global headquarters in Cambridge, is also among the 25 organisations from across the sector that are investing in the UK, ensuring that the country is at the forefront of developing new innovative treatments and medical technologies.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

There is no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Patients hit by shortage of drugs as prices soar

The Times, Billy Kenber and Chris Smyth, 7 December 2017

 

Cancer patients and people with severe mental illness are going without essential medicines because of shortages that have cost the NHS £180 million in six months, The Times has learnt.

At least 100 drugs have been affected by supply problems, forcing health officials to approve temporary price rises of up to 4,000 per cent to boost stocks. The NHS is spending more than £50 million a month overpaying for the medicines but pharmacies are still running out for days at a time and turning patients away.

Ministers are now investigating amid fears that the market is being manipulated to drive up prices. Pharmacists have complained that there have been cases where a drug in severe shortage becomes available immediately when a higher price is granted.

Warwick Smith, director-general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said “something very unusual” was going on and suggested that wholesalers were artificially inflating prices.

Mr Smith said that concessionary prices agreed by the government were on average two and a half times larger than manufacturers’ charges. “It’s not in manufacturers’ interest to exaggerate their price increases,” he said. “It doesn’t make them any money, it just makes them less popular. Something is going on somewhere else in the supply chain.”

Prostate and breast cancer drugs taken by tens of thousands of people are among those affected as well as epilepsy treatments and several common anti-psychotic medicines used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Simon Wigglesworth, head of the charity Epilepsy Action, said that people were being forced to change drugs because of shortages. “The impact of this should not be underestimated . . . [People with epilepsy] may not be able to drive or work, and experience severe anxiety or depression as a result of switching medication,” he said.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said that shortages of the hormonal therapy anastrozole, taken for years after surgery to stop tumours returning, were incredibly worrying, adding: “Delays in receiving treatments can cause further uncertainty and anxiety at an already difficult time. Crucially, if adherence to hormone therapy drops further, breast cancer recurrence rates could increase, ultimately costing women’s lives.”

Under rules to combat supply problems, a pharmacy industry body can ask the Department of Health to grant a month of higher prices, known as price concessions, for drugs that are difficult to obtain. The cost to the health service of one drug, the anti-psychotic quetiapine, has risen from £1.62 to £65 and the total extra cost to the NHS of the concession price rises has increased from £2.5 million in April to £32.1 million in June and £53.4 million in September. Overall the shortages have cost an extra £177.9 million between April and September, the most recent month for which data is available.

The cost is likely to be rising further as pharmacists report “unprecedented” shortages, with difficulties obtaining 97 drugs last month, up from 27 in April.

Mark Burdon, a member of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which makes these formal requests, said that high street chemists were “scratching around” for crucial supplies. “The most worrying ones are drugs for mental health. It’s terrifying for patients when they can’t get something they are stable on. Anti-cancer drugs too cause huge anxiety for patients,” he said. “We have to spend a lot of time reassuring people — ‘Yes, we’ll definitely have it, but probably not today or tomorrow. Can you scratch by until Friday?’ . . . It does happen that we have to say to patients, ‘We can’t get this for love nor money’.” He said that pharmacists were having to beg GPs and hospitals for supplies.

Many of the shortages have occurred in drugs made by several companies that have been available for years without any supply problems. At least two manufacturers have been forced by regulators to suspend some production this summer but the rise in shortages appears to have begun at least two months before these problems.

Martin Sawer, executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association, representing large wholesalers, insisted that they were not manipulating the market but called for more scrutiny of smaller wholesale licence-holders. “Our members do not sit on stock, they make generics available to customers as soon as they get them,” he said.

The Department of Health said: “Our priority is to ensure medicines used by the NHS are certified as safe and effective, even if this costs the NHS more money . . . The generic drugs market is particularly volatile at present due to shortages of supply and other factors but we still have some of the cheapest prices in Europe.”

Case study

Dr Wayne Kampers, 53, a consultant psychiatrist in London, said his patients had suffered depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of medicine shortages (Billy Kenber writes).

“About 20 per cent have either not been able to get the medication that’s been prescribed or they’ve been given a different form of that medication and that has significantly affected their mental health,” he said.

Dr Kampers, who works at the Priory in southwest London as well as in Harley Street, said that one patient had been stable on an antipsychotic drug for many years but recently had to switch because it suddenly became unavailable. “They really struggled,” he said.

He described the problems suffered by another patient who was prescribed an antidepressant. “He went to at least 12 different pharmacies around where he lived and worked and not a single one was able to dispense it and nor could they tell him when it was going to become available. The impact of the shortages has been far reaching.”

 

Drugmakers line up to invest in UK life sciences

PharmaTimes, Selina McKee, 6 December 2017

 

GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have announced significant investment in the UK as part of the government’s sector deal for the life sciences industry.

GSK said it would stream £40 million of new money into initiatives that harness advances in genetic research in the development of novel medicines.

The investment will support the sequencing of data from all 500,000 volunteer participants in the UK Biobank, beyond the first 50,000 subset announced earlier this year.

The funding will also bolster GSK’s ‘Open Targets’ collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Biogen and Takeda, set up in to make genetic and biological data openly available to help researchers identify and prioritise new targets for developing future medicines.

AstraZeneca, which is investing of £500 million in its new strategic R&D centre and global headquarters in Cambridge, is also among 25 organisations from across the sector and supported by government that are investing in the UK, ensuring that the country is at the forefront of developing new innovative treatments and medical technologies that improve patient lives.

Also included is a major investment by global healthcare firm MSD, which plans to establish a new world-leading life sciences discovery research facility and headquarters in the UK, supporting 950 jobs including 150 new high-skilled and high-value research roles.

“Our new site will combine MSD’s powerful and proven R&D engine with the cutting edge technologies and deep discovery capabilities afforded by the biomedical research community in the golden triangle of London-Oxford-Cambridge as well as access to the continental European life science ecosystem,” said Roger Perlmutter, president of MSD Research Laboratories.

The Life Sciences Sector Deal sets out an agreed strategic vision, built on co-investment, “that will modernise the industry, boost businesses large and small within it, and ensure the sector is perfectly positioned to respond to the challenges and opportunities of demographic change and pioneering research and development,” the government said.

The deal sets out a plan for the sector going forward, “with a vision and strategy that are aligned to the pillars of the Industrial Strategy and the themes of Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.”

Its key themes are: building on the UK’s position as a world leader in biomedical discovery with major inward investments; to grow the UK’s international reputation for pioneering early diagnostics and genomics programme, with a government investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund of up to £210 million; ensuring that the UK leads the world with its clinical trials, through innovative new trials platforms and investments in the country’s digital evidence collection abilities; and to develop innovative medicines manufacturing infrastructure and enable SMEs to manufacture advanced therapies, supported by a government commitment of £162 million via the Industrial Challenge Fund.

The announcements “are a great start towards industry and government working together to deliver the long-term strategic roadmap set out in the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy,” said Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

“These are smart investments for the future that acknowledge the government’s willingness to build upon the UK’s global strength in R&D, our leadership in new technologies such as genomic medicine and the potential that exists in making the best use of health data.”

Also commenting on the deal, Phil Thomson, president of Global Affairs at GSK, said: “The UK has a world class life sciences sector, but that will only continue to thrive through a strong partnership of Government, industry and academia. This Sector Deal contains a number of very practical commitments to strengthen the UK’s life science base and make it more attractive to international investment in areas such as clinical trials and high-tech research. Ultimately, this should provide benefits to the economy and create jobs.”

HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 7 December 2017

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

Apply to become a Member

Membership of the HDA guarantees your organisation:

  • Access to leading policy and industry forums of debate and discussion
  • Invitations to a range of networking industry events organised through the year, including an Annual Conference and a Business Day
  • Representation on HDA working parties, including the Members’ Liaison Group
  • A daily Political and Media Bulletin and HDA Newsletters
  • Access to HDA policy documents and all sections of the HDA website
  • Branding and marketing opportunities
Apply Now

Already a Member?