A new report by IMS Health shows the progress being made on the uptake of new medicines in the UK "remains slow", leading the ABPI to call for more action to improve market access.

The report, called Bridging the Gap - “Why some patients don’t receive NICE recommended treatments in England”, lists the numerous barriers to medicines reaching patients and calls for urgent action to remove the obstacles.

These obstacles include: a lack of or poor diagnosis; lack of access to specialists; funding confusion; and differing interpretations of NICE guidance by local and regional formulary committees - although this latter point should be dealt with by the NICE Scorecard, which names and shames NHS bodies that are not funding NICE-approved drugs.

The report findings come almost exactly one year after the UK Government published its life sciences strategy, which is designed to boost health and economic indicators by turning round the UK’s poor record on medicines uptake. 

But IMS Health says its report shows that progress remains slow. Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI, said this week that all partners involved in the life sciences strategy need to work more closely together and redouble their efforts, while thinking hard about how key components of the strategy can be achieved.

He added that the NHS needed to understand that using the newest medicines can transform patient health, reduce costs by keeping people out of hospital, support the pharmaceutical industry to create new treatments, and aid economic prosperity in the UK.

While problems persist with uptake to medicines in the UK, other components of the UK life sciences strategy are more difficult to achieve, according to the ABPI. For instance, it says, if new medicines are not being used in the UK, companies will be less likely to research and develop new products here because they will be unable to compare against the most effective ‘gold standard’ treatments.

Poor access ‘no surprise’

Whitehead said: “This is the latest in a long line of reports that confirms the UK is performing poorly at getting the latest and best medicines to patients. We lag behind Europe on health outcomes in areas such as cancer and this is no surprise given how poor we are getting medicines for this disease to UK patients.