As reported yesterday, the OFT has recommended that the scheme is overhauled and replaced with a patient-focussed value based pricing scheme where the price paid is linked to the therapeutic benefits.
The King's Fund also state that this is the first systematic review of the scheme in its 50 year history and that it has never been clear whether the research and development made possible by the higher prices the NHS pay for branded drugs are of benefit to the United Kingdom.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has defended the current scheme illustrating a £1.2 billion saving for the NHS identified by the National Audit Office. They also point out that primary care medicines still account for the same proportion of NHS spending as 10 years ago and that in real terms medicines now cost 21% less than 10 years ago.
The Department of Health must consider and respond to the OFT report within 120 days. The debate over the pricing of branded medicines is likely to continue until the response is made and perhaps beyond.
Action: Clinicians should ensure cost-effective use of medicines, including using generic alternatives where they are available.