Government ‘blocking’ new cancer drugs
THE head of Britain’s biggest drugs company yesterday accused the government of systematically delaying the introduction of new cancer drugs to save money.
GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said ministers were making false economies in order to achieve short-term cuts to the deficit in the public finances.
However, the Department of Health insisted there had been no changes to the assessment process for cancer drugs.
It issued a warning to the pharmaceutical companies that they needed to take a “hard look” at the high charges they were making to the NHS at a time of economic austerity.
In an interview with the BBC, Sir Andrew said governments across Europe had already cut drug prices by 5 per cent a year – costing GSK about £300 million per annum – as they sought to drive down their debts.
However, he said governments were now seeking to go further in an effort to achieve even bigger savings – and he highlighted what he said was Britain’s decision to delay new cancer treatments.
“The bit I’m much more frightened about is that what’s now beginning to become clear is that, in addition to price reductions, governments are delaying the approval of innovative new drugs,” he said.
Professor Jonathan Waxman, professor of oncology at Imperial College London, said that a number of new cancer drugs had been blocked, even though they offered “real advances” for patients.
He said the approvals process was now so “over- regulated” by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) – which assesses the cost-effectiveness of new treatments south of the border– it was no longer worth firms applying.
However, a Department of Health spokesman said: “The need for careful assessment of drugs’ effectiveness by Nice is particularly important for patients and taxpayers during a time of economic austerity.”
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