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UK High Court rejects ABPI's challenge to new NICE cost curbs

Published on 05/10/17 at 11:02am

The ABPI has been knocked back by the UK High Court in its legal challenge to NICE over new drug cost curbing measures which mean that treatments which are expected to cost the NHS more than £20 million per year in the first three years will not receive additional funding and are subject to additional negotiation, even if they have already been deemed as cost-effective.

The measures were decided upon by NICE and NHS England and put into place in April this year. The ABPI has argued that the funding restrictions mean that key treatments in areas including cancer, heart disease and diabetes could face significant delays in reaching patients, as well as many rare disease therapies. NICE itself stated that around one in five medicines would be affected, and the delays could potentially reach three years.

The ABPI also asserted that NICE did not have the authority to make the changes. Both the NHS and NICE dismissed these concerns, with NICE asserting that responsibility lies with pharma companies to price their drugs responsibly.

“We are disappointed that the judicial review application has been turned down,” the ABPI remarked on the decision. “It’s now appropriate for us to take time to reflect on the judgement with our members and decide next steps.”

NHS England said in a statement: “In this ruling the High Court has rejected ABPI’s flawed legal manoeuvres which the judge said would ‘produce an absurd result’. Rather than attempting to further frustrate NICE and the NHS’ work to ensure patients and taxpayers get maximum value out of the £15 billion being spent on drugs, it now makes sense to work together towards that shared goal.”

"This is in the interests of the NHS and all of us who rely on it," added Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE.

The dispute highlights the increasing tensions between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS in the UK, as government cuts and other financial woes mean the health service is increasingly ill-equipped to meet the challenges of ageing populations and ever more expensive medical treatments.  

The legal action had proven contentious even within the association, as the biggest UK members of the group, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, distanced themselves from the move.

Matt Fellows

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