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Vasella adds voice to NHS criticism

Published on 27/08/09 at 12:08pm

Novartis chief executive Daniel Vasella defended the industry's high cost oncology treatments, and said he would not want to be in the UK due to its tight budgetary restrictions.

He was speaking in Basel as the company unveiled its new approach to drug discovery, and said: "We are in a capitalistic system and we need to say that clearly. If there are no profits there will be no new drugs."

He continued: "I would not want to be in the UK. And I would not want to be that judge who has to say you cannot have access to that drug."

Vasellas comments were in response to a question over pricing, prompted by a recent statement from Noel Renaudin, the president of the French government committee that negotiates pricing with industry.

Ranaudin had said the maximum cost of a new treatment should not exceed 50 000 Euros (£44,000) per patient per year, which is far less than pharma deem reasonable for new oncology drugs in the West.

Vasella said: "I'm used to criticism. You have to get a thick skin. The real question is, how can you incentivise the industry to continue to innovate."

His indications were that NICE in the UK and also the French government were too restrictive in their cost-effectiveness measures, and that they should invest in medicines in order to save on the high cost of intensive care when patients become really ill.

He said: "You are better off in the US with cancer. There are dramatic differences between the US and the UK."

However, he did add that for long-term conditions such as diabetes, the UK's NHS did have some advantages. His reasoning was that physicians in the UK are paid to check the Body Mass Index (BMI) of a 17-year-old patient with the disease, and to monitor any complications with eyesight or the liver.

He said this type of care was far less likely in the US, where physicians are reimbursed for treatment only.

Vasella finished: "We do not have enough knowledge from cross-national workings. We could do much more about it."


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