Last month, the government’s fair trade regulator imposed a combined £89.4m fine on the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the distributor Flynn Pharma, after finding they set “excessive and unfair” prices for the anti-epilepsy drug, phenytoin sodium.
Surrey GP Martin Brunet launched a petition last month (December 15), to urge the government to channel the fine away from the Treasury, and back into care for epilepsy patients. The petition has amassed more than 500 signatures in a month.
Dr Brunet told C+D that “pharmacists could certainly promote the campaign,” as they are part of the process of supporting and caring for patients with epilepsy through services such as medicines use reviews.
The fine “wouldn’t make a massive difference to the NHS, but it could “transform epilepsy care,” Dr Brunet said.
Speaking to C+D, Dr Brunet said: “[The price hike is] a great injustice to the NHS and to epilepsy patients. Wouldn’t it be great if the government were to earmark [the fine money] for the NHS and specifically for epilepsy care?”
Jeremy Hunt to “discuss” issue
Dr Brunet said he had contacted his local MP – health secretary Jeremy Hunt – as part of his campaign.
“[Mr Hunt] said he is looking at [the issue] and trying to deal with excessive prices… and he would discuss it,” Dr Brunet said. “I hope the petition might encourage [more] politicians to do this.”
While Mr Hunt confirmed that it is “normal” for penalties imposed by the fair trade regulator to go to the Treasury, Dr Brunet argues that the government had set a “precedent” by setting aside the fines imposed on the banking industry for its part in rigging interest rates, to fund the armed forces and other “good causes”.
“It would be a win-win if the government was to do the same in this case,” Dr Brunet said.
Number of epilepsy nurses cut
Dr Brunet described epilepsy nurses as a "fantastic resource" for patients with the condition. However these roles have been reduced in his area due to budget cuts, leading to waiting lists of several months for a specialist appointment.
Patients with epilepsy really do struggle to get support with a life-defining illness,” he said.
Another petition to use the fine imposed on Pfizer and Flynn Pharma to “improve community epilepsy services”, started by epilepsy patient Andrew Palmer, has gained nearly 3,500 signatures.