British drugs body to challenge new cost rules in court

Pharmaceutical tablets and capsules are arranged on a table in a photo illustration shot September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/Illustration/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s pharmaceuticals trade body plans to go to court to challenge new cost rules for medicines, saying that the new arrangements would delay access to cost-effective medicines and deny treatments to patients suffering from rare diseases.

British drugmakers have criticised the government for breaking a commitment to improve access to new medicines with the changes, which increase the cost threshold for certain drugs for rare diseases from previously planned levels.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has now taken up the gauntlet and said on Monday that it wanted to reverse changes that “have the potential to cause significant delays for patients waiting for treatment for a range of conditions, including for cancer, heart disease and diabetes”.

The changes, which came into force in April, mean that new drugs costing the National Health Service (NHS) more than 20 million pounds a year will no longer be funded automatically, even if they are cost-effective.

Instead, companies will have to enter negotiations to justify their use and work out funding.

The ABPI also aims to reverse changes to the assessment of medicines for very rare diseases, describing the new rules as “inappropriate and unworkable”.

ABPI Chief Executive, Mike Thompson, said that after raising concerns and offering to work on alternative proposals, the body had applied to challenge the rules in court.

“We believe this to be the right course of action due to the potential damage these changes will cause to NHS care and on our ability to research, develop and use new medicines in the UK.

“We hope that the government will reverse the changes and work with us to find a solution that works for everyone.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Keith Weir and David Goodman