AstraZeneca Plc (NYSE:AZN)’s chief executive officer has said that the long negotiation process that the NHS undertakes with drugmakers before approving medications is making it hard for patients in the United Kingdom to access treatments that are life-saving. This includes drugs used in the treatment of cancer and which patients in the rest of Europe and the United States already have access to.
Before pharmaceutical firms can be allowed to provide drugs to patients, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has to decide whether the drugs can be availed through the NHS. With regards to the approval process, NICE demands proof that medicines are safe, effective and value for money.
Lengthy approval process
But even after NICE has approved the drugs, the pharmaceutical firms are subjected to more negotiations with the National Health Service. This means that these treatments approved by NICE end up only being available via the Cancer Drugs Fund in limited quantities. The Cancer Drugs Fund was formed by the government to pay for cancer drugs which are yet to be approved by the National Health Service.
“The problem with that is in the meantime, patients don’t get access. So it is really making it complicated for everybody. This is a big problem,” AstraZeneca’s chief executive officer, Pascal Soriot, said in an interview with the Financial Times.
The remarks by AstraZeneca’s chief executive come in the wake of an ongoing debate over the issue of making expensive medicines accessible to patients who need them. For instance NICE had ruled that a breast cancer treatment that was costing£90,000 per year was too expensive to be funded through the NHS. But patient groups have argued that the drug plays a crucial role in prolonging the lives of cancer patients.
AstraZeneca’s chief executive officer also stated that NICE was different from other regulators elsewhere such as the United States’ Food and Drugs Administration and the European Medicines Agency. He cited an example where the FDA and the EMA approved a drug during phase II trials whereas NICE demanded a phase III trial.
AstraZeneca plc gained 0.55 percent in Thursday’s trading to close the day at $27.36 a share.