The Department of Health and ABPI have released a joint statement announcing that crucial talks on changes to the UK-wide system for pricing and assessing new drugs are to be ‘opened up’.

The move follows an influential coalition of leading cancer charities, led by Prostate Cancer UK, warning the UK Government that continuing to exclude patient views from the talks risked seriously undermining the credibility and effectiveness of the new value-based pricing system.

In a joint statement, the ABPI and the Department of Health said: “There are several factors that may affect future arrangements which are subject to legislation or the Department’s relationship with other bodies. They include, for example, the role of NICE and related issues such as thresholds, where the ABPI has never had any right of direct intervention or negotiation.

“However, both DH and the ABPI recognise that developments in these areas will have an impact on negotiations, particularly regarding the evolution of value-based pricing. We have therefore agreed with the Department to hold separate meetings on these matters.

“The content of these meetings will be reported back to meetings of the negotiating teams for their information to ensure an holistic basis of common understanding for a new scheme. Any such parallel meetings will be attended by a member of the ABPI negotiating team to ensure seamless integration.”

This comes as the ABPI is debating a new drug pricing scheme - value based pricing - with the UK Government. VBP could replace the current PPRS pricing scheme by January 2014, and could see the UK Government set drug prices at launch based on new definitions of value.

In a statement, Prostate Cancer UK hailed the development “as excellent news” and interpreted the statement as saying it would allow patients a greater say in the VBP negotiations.

In November, the coalition of cancer charities warned ministers that ignoring the views of patients risks “seriously undermining the credibility and effectiveness of the new system” before it has even been established, and asked that the public be more involved.

Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We are delighted that the consultation into value-based pricing will no longer take place behind closed doors. This is an excellent development and is exactly what Prostate Cancer UK and like-minded charities have been demanding for some time.

“We very much look forward to working with the Department of Health and ABPI over the coming months to ensure the voice of patients is heard. Patient groups must have a say in the design of the new system so that it truly reflects their needs, as it is their lives that will be most affected.”

Shortly after the November statement by the cancer coalition, the ABPI released its own opinion on the pricing schemes, acknowledging that the patient voice in the assessment of value of medicines needs to be louder than it is, but the pricing of medicines: “has to remain the absolute domain of companies”.

In reaction to PCUK's statement, the ABPI said: "The ABPI and the Department of Health are now beginning in earnest discussions beginning about how we make value-based pricing work for patients, the NHS and industry. It will be important to take on board lots of different perspectives particularly from patients and the charities who support them.  ABPI looks forward to hearing their views as we take forward discussions with the Department of Health."