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Rising costs of generic medications

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

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medicine cost_shutterstock_409709611.jpgA recent investigation by The Times newspaper has shown that some entrepreneurs have made a fortune by exploiting a loophole in NHS pricing rules.

Drug companies that raised the price of medicines by up to 12,500 per cent could face multimillion-pound fines after the government called in the competition watchdog.

The prices of 32 drugs have risen by more than 1,000 per cent in the past five years. The companies face limited competition on long-established, off-patent drugs, which they bought from large pharmaceutical companies. By dropping the brand name, the medicines are taken outside NHS profit controls and suppliers are free to oversee 'extortionate' price rises.

The price rises on more than 50 drugs cost the taxpayer an extra £262 million last year alone. One private equity firm has made about £1.5 billion from buying and merging drug companies that imposed large price rises.

Many feel that the blame for this lies with the Department of Health for its lack of control and supervision on pricing. Some generic prices are now far above those of the original patented products and also well above generic prices in other EU countries.

It may be possible in the future for the NHS to obtain supplies elsewhere in the EU, under current mutual recognition procedures of product registration. This might involve some changes in labelling requirements but that would be a price worth paying to have an effective price structure for these older generic products supplied.

Clearly it is important that pharmaceutical companies are not exploiting the NHS. The secretary of state is currently looking into this investigation. It is illogical for NHS funding to be used in this way and for some companies making money in this manner. The loophole in the NHS pricing rules clearly needs to be closed as soon as possible to stop this continuing further.

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Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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