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BGMA urges government to ‘resist’ any US moves to change drug patents

The BGMA welcomes government pledges to keep NHS “off the table” in trade negotiations
The BGMA welcomes government pledges to keep NHS “off the table” in trade negotiations

The government must hold out against changes to drug patents and exclusivity provisions to protect the NHS and save money, BGMA director general Warwick Smith has said.

It is “critical” that the government resists any US proposals to “change patent or exclusivity provisions” that could delay the entry of generic and biosimilar medicines to the UK market, the director general of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) said in a statement last week (February 6).

Resisting any such change would “deliver on the Conservative party election manifesto”, Mr Smith said in response to a speech made by the secretary of state for international trade Elizabeth Truss last Thursday (February 6). The speech outlined plans for future trade agreements with non-EU countries during and after the Brexit transition period.

The BGMA welcomes sentiments in the manifesto to keep the NHS and the prices it pays for drugs “off the table” when seeking a trade deal with the US, he said.

However, Mr Smith warned that the UK’s “current intellectual property provisions”, which “balance the needs of the NHS and innovators”, must be maintained.

“The entry of one biosimilar medicine has saved the NHS £400 million in its first year so any delay would cost the NHS dear,” he added.

What did the Conservative party pledge in its manifesto?

The Conservatives failed to mention community pharmacy in their manifesto, only discussing recruiting GP pharmacists. When asked for clarification on their community pharmacy policy, a spokesperson told C+D: “We will be boosting the amounts going into community and primary care by £4.5 billion.”

Other healthcare highlights in the Conservative manifesto included a promise to recruit 6,000 more pharmacists, nurses and physiotherapists to work in GP surgeries by 2025, with the aim of delivering 50 million more GP appointments a year. It has not yet set out a breakdown of these roles.

The party also pledged to “make sure patients can benefit from digital booking and consultations offered by phone, Skype or online if they want them” and stressed that the price the NHS pays for medicines will “not be on the table” when negotiating trade deals, in response to ongoing criticism from Labour.

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