KCSN is a member of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Patient Organisation Forum. The ABPI aims to encourage the collaboration of the pharmaceutical industry and charities and to ensure that the patient is at the heart of their work to deliver medicines that have the most impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

Sharon Kell attended a recent ABPI Patient Organisation Forum, where the main topics of discussion were Brexit and the Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS) for branded medicines.

An update on Brexit

The first presentation was about the potential impact of Brexit on the supply of branded medicines from Europe. David Simmons from the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and Helen Lovell from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) explained that the Government’s ambition is to secure a good deal, however they must continue to plan for all scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit.

There are 6 supply chain working groups (medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables, clinical trials, blood and tissues/organs, vaccines and non-clinical goods and services), which are working to ensure access to medicines and medical supplies. The Government’s priority is to ensure access to medicines in case of a no deal.

There could be issues transporting medicines across borders, and these could potentially last up to 6 months. The Government is working with the pharmaceutical industry to put in place alternative arrangements in the event there are delays at the border or if medical supplies are not suitable for stockpiling. These arrangements include re-routing of medicines and ensuring air freight arrangements and additional freight capacity, on which all medical products will be prioritised.

The Government’s message is that patients and pharmacists should not stockpile medicines themselves, since this would disrupt supplies. The Government and NHS England regularly deal with medical supply shortages, and these processes will be built upon in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Arrangements will be communicated to the public, and the Government is working with patient organisations to develop communication channels.

ABPI members are working closely with the Government to make sure the processes and communication channels are in place in case of a no-deal and to ensure that arrangements outside of industry’s control are mitigated.

Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme for Branded Medicines (VPAS)

Paul Catchpole from the ABPI gave an update on the new VPAS, which came into force this January to replace the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS).

The VPAS is a 5 year voluntary agreement between DHSC, ABPI (on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK) and NHS England to manage Government spending on branded medicines, improve access and uptake of innovative medicines, and support innovation in the pharmaceutical industry.

The agreement will cap medicines growth at 2% for the next 5 years and industry will pay back anything over 2% to NHS England (estimated to be nearly £1 billion in 2019).

Pharmaceutical companies can choose whether to join the scheme, and 172 companies have joined representing 87% of branded medicines. The new scheme represents a commitment by government to help get medicines to patients quicker.

Key aspects of VPAS include:

  • The pharmaceutical payment mechanism allows 2% growth of the NHS medicines bill – anything over that is paid back by the pharmaceutical industry
  • First £5m of sales of a new drug are excluded from the pay back and pay back payments are tapered between £5-25m of sales
  • Small companies with less than £5m profit are excluded from the pay back
  • New medicines are excluded from the pay back for the first 36 months (back dated to January 2018)
  • Pharmaceutical companies still have the freedom to set their list price for new medicines.


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