Unregulated pharmaceuticals may be allowed to inflate the NHS drugs bill for little benefit to patients according to independent health policy analyst Roy Lilley.
It follows proposals by science minister Lord Drayson`s Office for Life Sciences to bypass the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
The intention is to fast track “innovative” new medicines that might otherwise by blocked by NICE on the grounds of cost and effectiveness.
Lord Drayson, a former drug company boss, is tasked with the promoting of life sciences as potential big earners for Britain. He is backed by Lord Mandelson, who sees pharmaceuticals as key to the revival of the UK economy.
Lord Drayson reportedly favours a system under which NICE would appraise the drug after three years in the hope that by that point the company would have made substantial profits and may thus be willing to drop the price.
But said Roy Lilley, an independent health policy analyst: “We have to ask ourselves the question: will drugs get more complex? Yes. Will they get more expensive? Yes.
“To say that we will buy them whatever, however much they cost, you might as well give the pharmaceutical industry a blank cheque. It’s a huge worry.”
At present, drug companies are reluctant to launch new drugs in the UK at prices below “global market value” because much of that market is influenced by UK prices.