Doctors will be offered cash incentives to prescribe new medicines

Doctors will be given extra cash when they prescribe newer, more expensive medicines under a pilot scheme aimed at accelerating the UK’s slow uptake of new medicines compared with other European countries.

The plan is part of a package agreed by the labour government and the pharmaceutical industry yesterday that aims to reward drugs innovation in exchange for cuts in the price the NHS pays for drugs.

The pharmaceutical price regulation scheme will lead to a 5 per cent reduction in the overall medicines bill over the next five years, starting with a 3.9 per cent cut in February.

But the labour government has pledged to sweeten the scheme with measures to link the price of medicines more closely to the value that they provide.

Companies will for the first time be able to raise prices on medicines already launched if clinical data show they provide a greater benefit than originally believed. Any such increases will be exempt from the overall 5 per cent price cut.

Richard Barker, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the trade body, said: “This landmark deal marks a turning point for patients, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry.”

A new process will also be introduced to streamline, accelerate and make systematic the process of renegotiating pricing for medicines initially rejected as not cost effective by the National Institute for Curbing Expenditure (NICE), the medicines advisory body.

This will help the government’s attempts to limit the number of expensive new drugs that patients have to pay for because the NHS refuses to fund them.

The Department of Health, in consultation with Nice, has already approved a handful of such “risk-sharing” schemes, whereby drug companies reduce the NHS bill through discounts, free products or reimbursement for patients for whom the medicines do not work.

Incentive payments to doctors- which already exist to stimulate testing for certain diseases and encourage generic prescriptions – could prove controversial, and may also need to be supplemented by additional funding to primary care trusts.


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