To coincide with Ask about Medicines week, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has issued a press release and published a manifesto that criticises the lower uptake of new drugs in the UK relative to other selected countries.
New drugs, those that have been available for less than five years, account for 17% market share in the UK while this is 27% in the USA, 24% in Australia and Spain and 22% in France and Germany.
It is unclear if these data are based on items prescribed or drug costs. Additionally, there is no information in this manifesto directly linking the lower use of new drugs to increased morbidity and mortality internationally. The manifesto also contains a map revealing age-standardised death rates from Coronary Heart Disease in men under 65. Again there is no link between this map and usage of new drugs.
The manifesto also contains information from surveys of journalists, politicians and the general public about the reputation of the industry. In all three of these three groups the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry is favourable and improving. The view of healthcare professionals is a conspicuous omission.
Interestingly, following the highly publicised launch of a revised Code of Practice, the number of complaints submitted to the Prescription Medicine Code of Practice Authority is up. So far this year 110 complaints have been received while number of complaints received in 2005 totalled 101. According to the press release, "the number of complaints received from healthcare professionals continues to be much higher than those from other sources".
The ABPI end their manifesto stating, "our aim is to help shape a future where patients have access to the right medicines at the right time and, in so doing, we help to save lives and
make the NHS budget go further".
Action: While the intentions of this manifesto are commendable in terms of improving patient care, clinicians should still exercise caution in their prescribing of new drugs.