New NHS deal “too generous to big pharma” say campaigners

Concerns over the privatisation of health services tend to be focused on the outsourcing of elective clinical care, mental health, diagnostics, support services and data management.

The staggering (and still rising) £19.2 billion annual bill for pharmaceuticals in England (2022/23) is often overlooked, even though it has increasingly been reported as a key factor in the deficits faced by trusts and Integrated Care Systems.

Almost three quarters of this spending (£14bn; 73%) is on branded drugs, which carry the highest mark-up for the drug companies, even though there is a yearly cap on the total sales value of branded medicines.

Now ministers have been criticised by campaigners for a new 5-year deal, signed this month, that the government claims will “save the NHS £14 billion over 5 years,” while in fact the level of annual growth in sales of branded drugs will double from 2% in 2024 to 4% by 2027.

Ministers also boast that the agreement includes a commitment by the pharmaceutical industry to “invest £400 million over 5 years” – just £80m per year – to support work on clinical trials, manufacturing and “innovative health technology assessments.”

In response, Global Justice Now, which has taken the lead in campaigning to rein in the profiteering by Big Pharma, accuses ministers of caving in to the drug companies, with a deal that is far too generous.

Full story in The Lowdown, 5 December 2023