Civil servants must observe a period of “purdah” in the weeks before a general election or referendum, which restricts government activity to avoid unfairly influencing public opinion. This has hit two major consultations for the pharma industry—the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) and proposed changes to the medicines pricing system known as the Statutory Scheme. The AAR is the brainchild of life sciences minister George Freeman, who wants it to re-shape the U.K. market and the National Health Service (NHS) around encouraging medical innovation, and remove some of the blocks and bottlenecks which plague the current system.
It released its interim report in October 2015, setting out five propositions to speed up access to transformative health technology that can change the lives of NHS patients.
This isn't the first time the report has been delayed—the final AAR report was originally scheduled for autumn 2015, then pushed on to spring 2016. Civil servants now say the final report will be launched shortly after referendum day 23 June, and have told pharma that it remains a “key priority.”
However, there remains skepticism about the AAR's ability to have a big impact on the U.K. sector and NHS uptake of new medicines, medical devices and other new technology—mainly because of the unprecedented squeeze on NHS spending.
Also, the AAR isn't able to recommend changes to the core working of NHS cost effectiveness watchdog NICE, or the main medicines pricing system, the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme (PPRS). This means the report can't be truly comprehensive, particularly as the pharma industry wants to see fundamental reform to how NICE works.
Despite these delays, industry body the ABPI remains upbeat. A spokesperson for the organization said, "We still believe that the review is a great and unique opportunity to enable greater patient access and benefit from new medicines, despite the delay in publication."
Top of the ABPI's wish list is for the U.K. to adopt new medicines more quickly, as it still lags behind European neighbors in this respect.