As the second phase of the UK Office of Fair Trading’s examination of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme gets underway, pharmaceutical industry spokesmen have said they do not believe that the initial six-month phase of the probe has found any serious defects with the system.

The conclusions of the first phase will not be made public by the OFT but “we have a sense of where they are,” according to Richard Barker, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The second phase of the investigation will involve the Office examining systems operating in other countries, for example in the areas of pricing and reimbursement, Dr Barker has told journalists in London. “I take this to mean that they have not found any fatal flaw that causes them to want to scrap” the UK Scheme, he added.

The stability provided for pharmaceutical manufacturers by the PPRS is much better than the schemes operated in almost all major markets but it is not perfect, he said, and there may well be a need to address the incentives which are currently in place for encouraging firms to do business and increasing industry investment in the UK.

The PPRS has stood the test of time and offers innovative drugmakers more stability than any other system operating in the European Union, but pharmaceutical R&D investment in the UK has now plateaued, says the ABPI. The industry is also worried that the Scheme can be particularly tough on those companies which have a limited range of products, said Dr Barker, who noted that the industry association has communicated these concerns to the OFT and offered suggestions. “It is realistic to expect that the PPRS should not be prejudicial against smaller firms,” he added.

Speaking to PharmaTimes, an ABPI spokesman emphasised that, while any system can be made better and there is definitely room for improvements to be made in the current Scheme, doing so should not upset the delicate and sensitive balance achieved between obtaining value for money for the National Health Service and creating a strong environment for R&D in the UK. This achievement “should not be cast aside lightly,” the spokesman warned.