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A new fast-track procedure would allow drug companies to sell “innovative” medicines to the NHS at a high price without passing through current safeguards.
Under the plans to be proposed by the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), run by science minister Lord Drayson, companies with medicines they claim are valuable and original will bypass the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which ensures that drugs are value for money before reaching the NHS.
The pharmaceutical industry has in the past been very critical of NICE because it blocks sales of expensive drugs to the NHS that are of only limited benefit.
These protests are often supported by patient groups which want new drugs to be available on the NHS to treat their particular condition.
The blueprint will recommend that medicines thought suitable for fast-tracking should be allowed into the NHS for a period of time without NICE scrutiny.
Lord Mandelson, whose business department oversees the OLS, believes that pharmaceutical businesses are key to the revival of the economy.
But pharmaceutical companies are currently reluctant to launch new drugs in the UK at low cost because 25% of the global market is influenced by the UK price.
Copyright Press Association 2009