HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 28 April 2017

Media Summary

Brexit must protect science or risk £800m research cash, ministers told
The Times, Oliver Wright and Chris Smyth, 28 April 2017

Britain’s biggest research foundation called on politicians to deliver a Brexit that gives them the “confidence” to continue investing nearly £800 million a year in science. The Wellcome Trust has written to party leaders setting out the conditions necessary to “sustain” scientific excellence. The letter from Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome’s director, and Baroness Manningham-Buller, its chairwoman, said that whichever party was elected in June would “determine the direction that the UK will take through exit from the European Union and beyond”.

Cancer Drugs Fund ‘huge waste of money’
BBC News, Nick Triggle, 28 April 2017

UK researchers have called the Cancer Drugs Fund in England a “huge waste of money”, that may have caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side effects of the drugs. The fund ran from 2010 to 2016, costing £1.27bn, yet the researchers found only one in five of the treatments to be beneficial.

Brexit and health and social care – People & Process
The Health Committee, The House of Commons, Eighth Report of Session 2016–17, 28 April 2017

The Health Committee has published its report entitled Brexit and health and social care – People & Process, to which the HDA submitted evidenceAlongside considering the preparations being made by the Department of Health (DoH) in advance of Brexit negotiations, the Health Committee is urging the DoH to produce a list of issues requiring contingency planning. Jeremy Hunt said that the DoH would continue to engage extensively with external stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry. It seems likely that the UK will require a new regulatory procedure for health-related products and substances of human origin. Jeremy Hunt maintained that the UK will leave the European Medicines Agency although continue to work closely with the body. The Committee also highlighted that the impact Brexit will have on those reliant upon the EU’s reciprocal healthcare arrangements should not be underestimated.

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Oral Answers, Friday 28 April 2017

Mr Barry Sheerman, MP:

May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for putting up with me so tolerantly for a long time? I warn you, however, that I will make every effort to come back and be troublesome in future. May I also surprise you by asking a topical question? People such as me were remainers. We accept the will of the British people, but we are darn sure that we want a great deal for this country and we are very worried that this election will get in the way. Has the Secretary of State seen this morning’s reports that the pharmaceutical industry is going to move out of Britain for two reasons? The first is Brexit and the second is the fact that we have not put sufficient resources into our national health service.

Mr Davis, MP:

Before I answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, may I say that he is the one person who has got me a rebuke from Mr Speaker in the past? I look forward to him coming back and continuing that tradition. Pharmaceutical industries have relocated here and companies such as GlaxoSmithKline have increased their expenditure here. As for the other aspect of that attempt by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, it seemed to me to be putting pressure on the spending of the national health service. That is an issue for the Health Secretary, who will make sensible decisions in the national interest, and not in that of an individual industry.

Full Coverage 

Cancer Drugs Fund ‘huge waste of money’
BBC News, Nick Triggle, 28 April 2017

The Cancer Drugs Fund in England was a “huge waste of money” and may have caused patients to suffer unnecessarily from the side effects of the drugs, according to UK researchers.

The fund ran from 2010 to 2016, costing £1.27bn, following an election promise made by the Conservatives to pay for cancer drugs the NHS was not funding.

The researchers found only one in five of the treatments was of benefit.

But the Tories said the fund gave patients “precious extra time”.

Nearly 100,000 patients received drugs under the scheme. It was run separately to the normal NHS process for assessing the effectiveness and affordability of new drugs, which is administered by a body called NICE.

Are NHS patients getting the best medicines?

The fund was promised by the Conservatives during the 2010 election campaign amid concern patients were not always getting access to the latest drugs.

Five things £1.27bn can pay for in the NHS (over five years)

  • 10,000 nurses
  • 2,500 hospital consultants
  • One of England’s 10 regional ambulance services
  • A one-off pay rise of 2.5% for every member of NHS staff
  • An extra 20 GP surgeries

Lead researcher Prof Richard Sullivan, from King’s College London, described it as “policy on the hoof” because of the way it was announced.

“Populism doesn’t work when you are dealing with complex areas of policy like this. When it was launched it was not monitored properly. It was politically and intellectually lazy.”

He said it was not only politicians who were guilty, but leading doctors and cancer charities for not speaking out against the fund or scrutinising it more.

And he said by the end the initiative had proved to be a “huge waste of money” and a “major policy error”, saying it was telling that in 2015 the committee that controlled the fund started delisting drugs and ended up striking off more than half the treatments from the list.

But the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, Baroness Delyth Morgan, said the fund had “had a totally transformational impact” on many living with incurable breast cancer.

She added it had offered patients “significant and precious extra time with their loved ones”, adding Perjeta could extend life by nearly 16 months, and Kadcyla by six to nine months, compared with existing treatments.

But Baroness Morgan did say the fund had only ever been “intended as a sticking plaster” while the “significant flaws” in the NICE appraisal process were fixed.

David Cameron announced the Cancer Drugs Fund policy during the 2010 election campaign
The fund was eventually brought under the remit of NICE last year and is now used to pay for treatments it believes there is a case to fund.

The study, which was published in the Annals of Oncology journal, looked at the 47 treatments that were being funded by January 2015, the point at which drugs started to be delisted because the cost of the fund was spiralling out of control.

They found only 18% met internationally recognised criteria for being deemed clinically beneficial.

This led them to conclude that a majority of patients may well have suffered because of side effects that the drugs can cause.

This can include anything from hair loss, upset stomachs and swelling in joints to an increased risk of stroke.
Of the drugs where there was some evidence of benefit, the average was an extra 3.2 months of survival.

Emlyn Samuel, of Cancer Research UK, agreed with the researchers that the fund “wasn’t fit for purpose”. He said the charity would be closely monitoring the impact of the new system administered by NICE.


17 August 2016, Pharmacy Biz


Pharmacy Biz explains that a new report published by Breast Cancer Now and Prostate Cancer UK claims that patients in the UK can’t access new cancer treatments available in other countries because the UK’s appraisal systems lack the opportunity to negotiate on drug prices. In non-UK countries, the body responsible for assessing the clinical effectiveness of a treatment is separate from the one deciding its cost effectiveness, meaning more flexibility to negotiate drug prices.


Readers split over scrapping pharmacy repeat prescriptions

17 August 2016, C&D, James Waldron


A poll commissioned by Chemist and Druggist shows that readers are split over plans to scrape pharmacy repeat prescriptions in order to prevent medicines going to waste. Some pharmacists called for a wider rollout while others called it a “step backward”. Overall. 63% of participants agreed that pharmacies should be prevented from ordering repeat prescriptions.


Parliamentary Coverage


There is no Parliamentary coverage today.


Full Coverage


17 August 2016, Pharmacy Biz


CANCER charities claim thousands of NHS patients are being denied access to new cancer treatments available in other countries because UK appraisal systems lack the opportunity to negotiate on drug prices.


A new report published by Breast Cancer Now and Prostate Cancer UK investigated the availability of breast and prostate cancer treatments in England, Wales and Scotland compared to five countries of similar wealth, including Australia and Germany.


In its research, the charities analysed the role health technology assessment (HTA) bodies, such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England and the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), played in approving new cancer drugs.


They found that in non-UK countries, one HTA body is responsible for assessing the clinical effectiveness of a drug, while another was responsible for deciding its cost effectiveness.


However, it added that NICE and SMC had responsibility for both of these functions, meaning they lacked the flexibility to negotiate on drug prices.


Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said “Pharmaceutical companies must indeed start offering more responsible prices.


“But until our health bodies are empowered to negotiate the price of cancer drugs, patients in the UK will continue to miss out on new treatments being offered elsewhere.”


In addition, the report highlighted one drug, Kadcyla – which can offer women living with incurable secondary breast cancer an extra six months of life on average – was launched two and a half years ago and is available in France, Canada and Germany, but was only available in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund and is not available at all in Scotland and Wales.


Heather Blake, director of support and influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Leaving patients with this uncertainty is unacceptable.


“That’s why action is needed to enable industry to negotiate new pricing models, and to give more weight to patient evidence so that the next generation of new cancer treatments reaches those in need.”


Readers split over scrapping pharmacy repeat prescriptions

17 August 2016, C&D, James Waldron


C+D readers are split over whether a scheme to prevent pharmacies from ordering repeat prescriptions should be rolled out across the country.

Three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the north west of England and East Anglia have implemented schemes to stop pharmacies from reordering prescriptions – with the hopes of saving the NHS around £10 million a year in wasted medicines, C+D reported on Monday (August 15).


Pharmacists commenting on the C+D website were divided between those who hoped for a wider rollout of the scheme across the UK and those who branded it a “step backward”.


“No prescription without request”


Community pharmacist Michael Franks agreed with the CCGs that “no prescription should be requested without the patient requesting it”. “I ask the patient to contact us seven days before the script is due,” he said.


Pharmacist Reeyah H said they are “100% for” nationwide rollout of the scheme. “[I’m] sick and tired of moaning patients who have become so lazy, and the workload for staff,” they wrote.


A community pharmacist posting as Barry Pharmacist praised the CCGs’ decision as “the end of the line for unscrupulous individuals that drag us down”.


“If it applies to everyone, and is not manipulated by GPs with a commercial interest in a particular pharmacy, then let it be,” he posted.


Community pharmacist Kalpesh Shah said he “completely” agrees with the scheme, which would affect multiples used to “asking patients to repeat their medicines every month”.


However, he questioned who will “pick up the slack” of the extra prescription requests currently handled by pharmacies. “Surgeries up and down the country have got used to pharmacies dealing their repeats and most do not have staff in place to deal with extra prescription requests,” he posted.


“Totally against the idea”


Other readers were more vocal in their concerns. Dispensing assistant Sam Isted said his pharmacy had already tried to “implement this change” and he is “totally against the idea”.


“I work in an area where roughly 80% of the population are elderly patients who do not have access to the internet or are unable to get to the surgery,” he posted. “Surely patient safety should come [before] any money saving scheme?”


A community pharmacist posting as R Patel said the scheme was going to be “such a disaster for some independent pharmacies, as “the [GP practice] pharmacies in these pilot areas will pick up all the scripts”.


“Yet again, bad practices by some pharmacies – mainly the big multiples and large groups – have created this problem,” they added.


Pharmacy staff member Robert Miller labelled the scheme a “step backwards”. “The present arrangements [are] working well. This change will put pressure on surgeries and inconvenience patients,” he wrote.


Locum pharmacist Hadi Al-Bayati said he “agreed that more [responsibility] should be put on the patient”, but added that he is “curious what [a] surgery’s policy will be if you can’t get there to order [the medicine] and don’t have a computer”.


He questioned whether GP practices would be forced to “staff a prescription ordering service” to deal with the extra demand.

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