The debate, on Wednesday 3rd May, focused on the need for the VPAS scheme to encourage life sciences investment in the UK. Anne-Marie Morris MP and Daniel Zeichner were both critical of the Government’s approach and both spoke to the potential (and actual) decline in life sciences investment in the UK, as well as the potential for suppliers to deprioritise the UK for the launch and supply of new and existing medicines due to high rebate levels.
In line with the paper that she has developed under the APPG on access to medicines, Anne Marie Morris called for an increase in the rate of allowed growth to 4% and for a significant number of rebates to be ring fenced to support the implementation of the Life Sciences Vision missions.
Responding, Will Quince stated that he was not able to address all the points raised due to the “commercially sensitive” negotiations and instead concentrated his comments on the importance of wider factors impacting life sciences investment in the UK, including regulation, R&D tax credits, uptake of new medicines, clinical trials and the NHS as an innovation partner. However, he did acknowledge the link between VPAS and company investment decisions – he stated that the 2024 VPAS would aim to deliver a “four-way win” for UK plc, the NHS, patients and “most importantly” industry.
However, less positively, he stuck to the government’s existing messaging around VPAS rebates, stating that these were in line with forecasts given to industry (though he noted that they may not have been “believed”) – both Daniel Zeichner and Anne Marie Morris challenged this, highlighting the uncertainty over the factors driving growth and Quince stated that the government was “open to ideas” about how the future scheme should operate, noting Sir Hugh Taylor’s role in overseeing the negotiations.
EMIG was mentioned by both Anne Marie and Daniel, with Anne-Marie noting the importance of industry voices beyond the ABPI being heard in the negotiations, and Daniel mentioning the EMIG Chairman (by name) as a providing support/insights ahead of the debate.
VPAS Debate Summary
- Anne Marie Morris highlighted the importance of partnership between Government and industry in order to deliver on the ambitions of the Life Sciences Vision. As part of this, she:
- Detailed the impact of the current VPAS – with a decline in UK investment and clinical trials – and the need for a collaborative solution for VPAS 2024
- Highlighted findings from the ABPI and PWC’s report on the value of the life sciences sector on the UK, including that life sciences:
- Add £36.9billion in gross value
- Provide 584,000 jobs
- Make up 18% of all UK’s R&D
- Suggested that the ABPI’s VPAS proposal would not work in practice
- Noted the APPG on Access to Medicines report and proposal for the scheme which includes a 4% cap, rebasing the system each year, ring fencing the rebate for health and removing biosimilars and branded generics
- Suggested further actions to support the management of the medicines budget including integrating MHRA and NICE processes, mutual recognition of international approvals, and improvements to innovative medicines uptake
- Daniel Zeichner spoke to the potential impact of the current medicines environment in the UK, to patients, the NHS and the economy. Of note he highlighted:
- That the UK has the highest rate of decline in new drug launches compared with Spain, Italy, Germany and France
- The potential for the situation to affect access to biosimilars and generics as well as new drugs
- The need for VPAS rebates to link to the wider Life Sciences Vision
- Martyn Day noted that in Scotland VPAS receipts are used to fund the new medicines fund, which supports health boards with the cost of introducing new medicines, and highlighted the £164 million investment into pharma R&D in 2018.
- Karin Smyth noted Labour’s commitment to harnessing the potential of the life sciences sector with a target to raise total investment in R&D by 3% of GDP by 2030
- The Minister for health and Secondary Care, Will Quince noted that VPAS 2024 needs to be a “four-way win” for UK plc, the NHS, patients and “most importantly” industry, but primarily focused his response on the importance of the wider environmental factors – beyond medicines pricing – on life sciences investment in the UK, including regulation, R&D tax credits, medicines adoption, and clinical trials. As part of this he:
- Stressed the importance of the NHS as an innovation partner with unparalleled access to real-world data
- Noted that the UK is around the median for spending on medicines per capita with comparable countries in Europe, with a similar or higher spend than Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, only spending less than Germany, France and Italy
- Highlighted areas of hope for the environment, including recent deals with Moderna and BioNTech as well as James O’Shaughnessy’s review
- Noted the potential of genomics, cell & gene therapies, investment in innovation as well as transformation around pharma, med tech, systems and AI to help alleviate pressures on the NHS