The Ethical Medicines Industry Group is calling on the UK Government to give more details about value based pricing, and its relationship with NICE.

This comes on the day that a Parliamentary inquiry into NICE begins in earnest, which is looking into the workings of NICE as a health technology assessor.

Pharma companies and member bodies such as EMIG had until yesterday to submit their evidence as to how well NICE works, and what changes they would make.

First among the list that EMIG is calling for is: “Further clarity on the shape and implications of value-based pricing,” as details on the scheme – which will give new definitions of value for drugs and possibly allow the government to set prices at launch by 2014 – have been thin on the ground. 

EMIG, which represents small to medium sized pharma companies in the UK, is not legally involved in VBP. Discussions over the new scheme have been taken on by the ABPI, who began negotiations with the Department of Health and the government in September.

EMIG Chairman Leslie Galloway said: “As the negotiations to shape the future of value-based pricing get underway now is an opportune time for the committee to investigate how the creation of a new pricing system for innovative medicines can deliver better access to medicines for patients, drive value for money in the NHS and contribute to a flourishing life sciences sector in the UK.”

A senior member within the industry recently told PharmaTimes UK News that she thought VBP would just ‘fizzle out’ given that pharma has had no pilot schemes to test the system, and there is still little clarity even though it is due to be rolled out in just over a year’s time.

The arrival of a new health secretary in Jeremy Hunt may also have turned the tables as it was his predecessor, Andrew Lansley, who had the biggest appetite for VBP. The senior industry member said she believed that the current PPRS pricing scheme would be extended by 12 months, and a similar system would then be re-negotiated with much of VBP removed.

NICE changes

Meanwhile, EMIG said it welcomed the Health Select Committee’s inquiry into the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

In a statement it said this is a “timely opportunity for the SME specialist bio-pharmaceutical sector to reflect on the workings of the medicines regulator, in particular its future role in supporting the new commissioning environment and how the value of innovative new medicines will be assessed”.

VBP may water down NICE’s authority as it could be replaced by ‘VBP panels’ that would assess the value of a drug on new criteria, rather than just QALY. But details on this are still sketchy at best, and it is unclear as to what role NICE will have come 2014.

EMIG has used the enquiry as a means to ask for more from NICE.

Among its recommendations, the pharma body has asked for a “transparent and consistent approach to health technology assessment across the four nations”. Currently, NICE decisions are only binding in England and Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own HTAs, which can differ in their opinions to NICE.

EMIG is also calling for no additional assessment of NICE approved medicines at a local level, something that should be made easier by the NICE Scorecard. This was set up last month and allows the DH to name and shame NHS bodies not adopting NICE technologies in a timely manner.