An influential GP has said that the government’s new drug pricing scheme is merely “a sound bite” that nobody understands.
GPC prescribing lead Dr Bill Beeby told GP Online: “So far I haven’t seen a worked example of how value-based pricing will be operated. All we’ve had is an explanation of the theoretical concept, that reimbursement of drug price will be dependent on value.”
VBP looks to replace the 55-year old PPRS system and re-defined the value of medicines in the UK from next year. The plans were initially put forward in July 2010, but there have been no pilot schemes to allow the NHS or pharma to see how it works, and there are still many uncertainties in the plans.
The ABPI have already voiced their misgivings over the plan’s lack of clarity, and now doctors are expressing their concerns.
Dr Beeby added: “The concept of value-based pricing sounds a good idea when you talk about it, but it doesn’t translate into something easy to implement. It’s a sound bite, smoke and mirrors; and nobody’s come up with an explanation of how it works.”
He warned: “I hope people aren’t stuck with it to the point of not being able to admit [if] the concept has flaws in it. If they try to fit a square peg into a round hole, it won’t be any better than system we've got.”
There has been little public engagement with the plans, which were announced as part of the larger – and more controversial – package of NHS reform. The talks have also largely been held behind closed doors, which has been criticised by some patient groups.
The ABPI have made it clear that it wants to see VBP gradually phased into the UK, but would prefer to see the PPRS scheme – which allows pharma to set its own prices and re-negotiate years every five years – remain as the primary system for pricing medicines.
The ABPI’s chief executive Stephen Whitehead recently told PharmaTimes that negotiations were “on track” but conceded that they will “doubtless be a difficult and complicated process,” adding that the group realises it’s working in a “very difficult environment”.
The scheme’s lack of clarity was in January denounced by the Health Select Committee, who said the UK Government must give a clear path for the plans by the end of this month.