The Shadow Health Secretary writes for The Telegraph about a new way of paying drug companies through NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. These are his key messages:
The general problem: "In Britain, we have among the leading cancer research institutes in Europe. It is, frankly, a scandal that NHS patients are among those in Europe least likely to have access to the latest cancer medicines. The doubling of the NHS budget has not delivered the results we deserve, because across the board Labour have refused to make the changes we need to spend money more wisely."
One solution to drug unavailability: " Instead of the NHS denying access to drugs because they say it’s not cost-effective – as Nice has done recently with four kidney cancer drugs – we should encourage the NHS to use new medicines which are clinically effective, and agree subsequently to pay the drugs companies according to the therapeutic benefit. In other words, drugs companies should only be paid according to the benefits that a drug brings to patients. NICE should be involved in this process, working with drug companies to set fair prices for new medicines – rather than refusing new treatments which it deems too expensive."
Not all drug companies will like this change of policy: "Moving to the new system that I propose would be tough; it will mean payment by results for drug companies. Many existing drug treatments will get a lower price from the NHS. Really innovative drugs with good clinical benefits will do better. "