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Courts back NHS in fight against Novartis and Bayer

Published on 24/09/18 at 11:03am

The NHS has won a court case against multinational pharmaceutical firms Novartis and Bayer, after the companies sought to block Britain’s National Health Service from using a much cheaper drug to treat the leading cause of blindness, wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

The decision has come after Novartis and Bayer attempted to prevent the NHS from using Avastin (a drug approved only for use in treating cancer) for use in treating wet AMD. The multibillion pound firms instead hoped to ensure that the NHS continued to use Bayer’s Eylea, which costs £800 and Novartis’ Ludentis which costs £561. In comparison Avastin costs just £28 per injection.

However the high court ruled in favour of the 12 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups based in the North East of England thus allowing them to use the cheaper drug for the treatment of wet AMD.

David Hambleton, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Chief Officer in South Tyneside, commented: “It’s a victory for common sense over commercial interests. The drug is undeniably equally effective, and much less expensive, and the money this will save – in excess of £13.5m per year for the 12 CCGs involved in this litigation alone, and hundreds of millions of pounds across the country – can be ploughed straight back into delivering the very best care possible to our patients.”

He continued “Novartis and Bayer have argued long and hard for the more expensive drugs they’d rather sell to be the only ones available to people suffering from this condition. But thankfully the court has recognised that there is no medical basis to that argument. This is great news for patients with this condition and for the wider NHS”

In response a spokesperson for Novartis commented that: “Novartis is deeply disappointed in this decision and remains of the opinion that the policy undermines the well-established legal and regulatory framework that is there to protect both patients' safety and to ensure health care professionals can prescribe with confidence.”

Louis Goss

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