A new survey commissioned by the ABPI, has revealed that the British public misunderstands the cost and value of medicines in the U.K.
The survey, which was conducted by GfK NOP and interviewed 1,000 people, show that many mistakenly believe the NHS spends much more on medicines than it actually does, while there is poor understanding of the huge expense involved in their discovery, development, approval and launch.
The head of the U.K. pharmaceutical industry believes it is vital that the public better understands the facts and fully appreciates their low cost compared to their considerable economic and health benefits.
The survey shows that over a third of respondents (35%) think that 20% or more of the NHS budget is spent on medicines. In reality, the NHS spent just 9.7% of its entire budget on medicines in 2011, down from 12.5% in 1999.
Among the most striking of the figures, the survey shows that over half of people (59%) think that it costs pharmaceutical companies less than $15.8 million to research and develop a medicine. This shows that people have a poor understanding of the huge investment required to bring a medicine to market as it costs on average over $1.5 billion to create a new medicine—a process that typically takes over 12 years.
The survey also found that 77% of patients would like spending on medicines to increase or stay the same compared with 19% that would opt for a decrease. Spending in this area is set to stay flat over the next three years but spending on the newest medicines is set to fall significantly to just 2% of the overall budget for medicines by 2015.
"I am really concerned that people do not understand the cost or value of medicines in this country,” said Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI. “To create new treatments in the U.K., the pharmaceutical industry undertakes huge risk and investment and is still able to provide the NHS with amongst the lowest priced medicines in Europe. These medicines are the bedrock of the NHS, and have saved and changed the lives of millions of people. Many diseases which once caused significant suffering, such as HIV, diabetes and heart disease, are now manageable conditions which people can live with until old age, and their treatment becomes cheaper as generics can be used once medicines lose their patent.
Whitehead continued, "What's more, our medicines can save the system money because their effective use can often reduce the need for expensive hospital care and operations. As well providing real value, we also contribute billions annually to the U.K. economy and provide 67,000 jobs. In the coming months we will be doing much to educate people and patients of the facts about medicines—the huge benefits, the low prices and the high cost of development."