Cancer Drugs Price Rising Despite No Longer Being Under Patent

When a new drug enters the market, the manufactures have a patent of several years to profit from investments in research and development. The NHS allows this patent as it gives incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to invest in new advancements and therefore produce new drugs. The setback to this patent is that the pharmaceutical companies then have a monopoly over their drug and charge high prices because they have no competition. In theory, when a patent expires and generic forms enter the market, the price should lower and come close to the cost of production.
However, due to the high drug prices, the NHS is often unable to approve some of these new cancer drugs for treatment.

Dr Andrew Hill, senior research fellow in pharmacology and therapeutics at the University of Liverpool, and Melissa Barber from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, collected prices on medicines available on the NHS. They found that some companies take over the supply of the generic cancer medicines and then raise the price progressively. Tamoxifen, used to treat breast cancer, cost 10p per tablet in 2011 and £1.21 in 2016.

Dr Hill said “At a time when cancer patients are living longer and better lives due to effective treatments, this situation is particularly worrying”.  But Warwick Smith, director-general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said the actual prices paid by hospitals were usually much lower than the list prices. He said the tendered price paid by hospitals for tamoxifen 10mg tablets is £4.85 for a pack of 30, or 16p per tablet.

A current bill, the Health Services Medical Supplies Bill, is currently working its way through parliament and is designed to allow the NHS to regulate prices in the future. This bill would allow the NHS to fine companies who raise prices of their drugs with no clear justification. Other European counties such as Spain and Italy have taken similar measures and lead to hopes for lower pharmaceutical prices within the UK in the near future.

“We will continue to work closely with the pharmaceutical sector to make a success of these new measures, and all the money saved will be invested in the NHS to help provide the highest quality of care for patients” – Department of Health Spokeswoman

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