NHS England beats off drug company challenge

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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NHS England has beaten off a legal challenge by a drug company against its procurement of drugs to eliminate hepatitis C as part of its programme, announced last year, to make the UK the first in the world to eradicate the disease by 2025.

AbbVie claimed that not all bidders had been treated fairly in the procurement process, but the High Court rejected this claim. The procurement was designed to achieve an affordable price for the drugs so that NHS England could plan to eliminate hepatitis C, believed to affect around 160 000 people, by 2025. The court action has delayed the start of NHS England’s programme by six months.

In the ruling, the judge rejected all challenges brought by AbbVie against NHS England’s smart procurement for the supply of curative, direct acting antiviral treatments and industry backed projects to find and treat people with the virus as quickly as possible.

John Stewart, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, said: “Court cases such as this are a waste of NHS resources and taxpayers’ money, in this case resulting in an unavoidable delay in our efforts to tackle the threat of hepatitis C, which disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society.”

The Hepatitis C procurement is the latest in a series of ‘smart deals’ the NHS has delivered to drive value for the taxpayer and benefits for patients. These include a £300 million saving after negotiating deals with five manufacturers on low cost versions of the health service’s most costly drug, adalimumab; striking the first full access deal in Europe for CAR-T therapy which can potentially cure some children and adults with blood cancers where other treatments have failed; and reaching a deal to make the life-extending lung cancer drug pembrolizumab, available for routine use on the NHS.
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