Concerns have been raised that the new “value based pricing” regime for medicines may not be ready in time to replace the existing system.
The warnings were sparked by a government consultation response on the issue, published on Monday, which contained little detail.
The response confirmed the government’s commitment to introducing value based pricing by 2014. It aims to improve patient access to drugs and encourage innovation by taking into account factors such as whether a drug caters for a previously unmet need, or is a particular breakthrough.
The consultation response reveals plans to commission a programme of “independent research” to inform the system’s development and “extensive testing” of the new system ahead of its introduction.
However, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry chief executive Stephen Whitehead said there was still “much work to be done” and “many questions to be answered”.
But he welcomed the response’s acknowledgement that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should have a “central role” in the new system – something the initial consultation document had left open.
The response also confirms the government will issue a funding direction requiring the NHS to fund drugs included in the value based pricing regime, in the same way primary care trusts must provide those currently approved by NICE.
In addition, it does not rule out the continuation of patient access schemes, such as the cancer drugs fund, in some form.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the response was an “important next step” in developing the new system and reaffirmed his commitment to have it in place by 2014.