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Minister tells NHS: use Brilique or face the consequences

UK News | January 18, 2013


Ben Adams

Minister tells NHS: use Brilique or face the consequences

AstraZeneca has teamed up with David Willetts, the Conservative minister for science and universities, to try and persuade the NHS to use Brilique.

Currently the drug is lagging behind the projections AZ had for it in the UK and according to the Manchester Evening News, the Willetts has asked the NHS: “To increase its use of [Brilique], amid mounting political concern about the drugs company’s commitment to British jobs.”

This will make many within the NHS uneasy, given that a politician is working on behalf of a private firm to push for the use of one of its products.

Brilique, a blood thinner used to treat patients suffering from severe angina or heart attacks, has not sold well since it was recommended by NICE in October 2011. Globally, the drug has generated sales of just $51 million during the nine months ended September 2012, far below analysts’ estimates.

The drug was meant to turn around the fortunes of AZ, which has slashed R&D jobs over the past three years as it suffers from major patent expiries and an eroded pipeline, which has seen a slew of costly late-stage failures that eventually claimed the job of its previous chief executive, David Brennan.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said although it invests heavily in producing new drugs in this country, it is difficult to persuade primary healthcare trusts to adopt new costly medicines.

It added: “Despite this recommendation and the NHS target of reducing the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease, it is currently only routinely available to patients in some parts of England.

“We share the NHS and the government’s objective of broadening patient access to innovative medicines and continue to engage in dialogue.”

Willetts is the minister with “strategic relationship management responsibility” for several pharma companies, including AstraZeneca, said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in a statement.

“He regularly meets with companies to discuss issues of importance to them, and has a strong interest in making sure that the environment for the life-sciences industry is conducive to innovation and growth,” it added.

AZ announced it would cut 7,300 jobs worldwide last year, including 2,200 R&D, as drugs that account for more than 40% of sales lose patent protection by the end of 2014.

In the UK, the Anglo-Swedish firm announced in 2010 that its Charnwood R&D facility in Loughborough would be closed with the loss of around 1,200 jobs.

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