A consensus panel has concluded that the NHS could improve patient access to new cancer drugs by varying the price it pays for different medicines depending on what disease they are used to treat.

The panel consisted of a group of experts, representing 16 leading academic institutions, charities, stakeholder groups and pharmaceutical companies.

This includes members from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), UCL, Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now, as well as sector organisations including the Ethical Medicines Industry Group and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine.

The panel also included a group of leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies - AbbVie, Bionical Emas, Bristol Myers Squibb, Immedica, Incyte Biosciences UK, Janssen, Merck, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi.

The group recommended a nine-point plan which includes suggestions for varying drug prices depending on the particular indication of a treatment.

This would enable companies to reduce the price of a drug for a certain disease, where it might otherwise not have been cost-effective, as opposed to having to do so ‘across the board’.

“Being able to vary a drug’s unit price or apply discounts across multiple indications could encourage companies to bring drugs to market for new conditions, increasing access to treatments in areas of unmet need,” the experts said.

The panel also backed outcome-based pricing, wherein the NHS only pays the full agreed price for a drug when it delivers the anticipated benefits.

“We recommend that the Government and pharmaceutical industry work together to expand the necessary digital infrastructure and personnel, so drug prices can be aligned with outcomes or varied by indication,” the experts added.

The recommendations from the experts represent areas of cross-sector agreement on how to enable improved patient access to new treatments at prices the NHS can afford to pay.

“The nine-point plan we release today (9 November) shows there is broad agreement across sectors involved in drug discovery and development on what the major issues are that we must tackle, and how improvements can be made,” said Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the ICR.

“I call on the Government, and decision makers in the NHS and industry, to instigate vital changes that will speed up access to drugs for patients,” he added.