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Whitehead to GPs: don’t squeeze the drugs budget

Published on 07/08/12 at 08:58am
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GPs should value the drug industry and not seek to squeeze the drugs bill as their predecessors have done, says the ABPI. 

The current commissioners of the drugs budget - PCT and SHA Clusters - will be replaced with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from next April, which will be made up primarily of GPs. 

Mindful of this change the ABPI’s chief executive Stephen Whitehead has written to GP magazine ‘GP Online’ to persuade them not to block new medicines. He said that it makes sense for CCGs, which now hold the purse strings for the first time, to consider the ABPI’s views. 

These include the statistic that the UK spends less of its GDP on drugs than Europe, and that the recent expiry of many blockbuster drugs has seen spend on the drugs budget fall for the first time in years. 

The old NHS management system saw Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts in charge of the NHS budget, but Whitehead believes that CCGs are better placed to make funding decisions. 

“With clinicians having frontline experience of treating people day in, day out, and appreciating how medicines can improve patients’ lives, CCGs should be better placed to make decisions on medicines spending compared with SHA managers,” he said. 

“As we look to the future, I am hopeful we can move away from the days of silo budgeting and start to see medicines for what they are, an investment and not simply a cost.”

Comment 

The ABPI has had a lot of problems with drug rationing over the years, with red and black listing of NICE-approved drugs commonplace among SHAs and PCTs.  

It will hope that it can have a fresh start with CCGs and make sure the issue of blocking medicines is brought to their attention right at the start of their tenure - this is the reason his view was exclusively published in a GP magazine.

But the need to ration drugs is a systemic problem and one that will not necessarily be solved by having new people in charge. 

The NHS must find £20 billion in savings by 2015 and maybe even another £20 billion by 2020. This means that GPs will if anything be under more financial pressure than their predecessors, and with less managerial and accounting acumen.

Whitehead is keen to launch a pre-emptive strike against drug rationing, but the practicalities of balancing the budget may mean GPs have little choice but to cut back on certain treatments. 

Ben Adams

 

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