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ABPI chief calls for 'new rules of engagement'

Published on 23/02/06 at 03:09pm

UK pharmaceutical industry leader Richard Barker has called for a fundamental rethink in the way the industry and the NHS interact, calling for new rules of engagement and new ways of measuring the benefits of medicines to patients.

Speaking at The Economist conference in London, the ABPI director general said definitions of 'productivity' must reflect the outcomes experienced by patients rather than being focused on activities performed on them.

Barker's comments suggest a willingness to radically renegotiate the industry-NHS relationship. The UK industry may be willing to be assessed on direct health outcomes in return for a guarantee of greater access to new medicines for patients, although Barker has not as yet revealed any concrete proposals.

His comments coincide with an unprecedented controversy around access to cancer drugs like Herceptin, as well as an investigation into the industry's pricing mechanism the PPRS, signals which suggest the current system is unlikely to remain unchanged in the long-term.

'We face a situation where life-saving and life-changing treatments that patients demand are simply not getting through in enough quantity and quickly enough," he said.  

Dr Barker, who chaired the event, said that his "new rules of engagement" required each of the main players - industry, government and healthcare providers - to fundamentally change their mindset and behaviour, if advances in medicines were to be used to their full potential.

He said the industry must change its mindset by truly becoming a partner to the health service.

"Fundamentally, we need to shape our business around the needs of health providers to become part of the solution, not part of the problem of healthcare productivity. 'Develop and sell' must give way to 'innovate and engage'," Dr Barker said.

The ABPI has collaborated with the NHS in drawing up clinical guidelines, the national service frameworks (NSFs) in a number of disease areas, but the industry body says these are 'just first steps on the way' and want to see closer working in the future.

Pfizer has pioneered a chronic disease management programme with Haringey Teaching PCT, which has been declared a success, but this is a single-company initiative.

The ABPI is seemingly interested in a well-defined, industry-wide engagement with the NHS, with Barker calling for an initiative to benchmark the best measures and consider how they could be formally incorporated in NHS management procedures.

Groundbreaking PCT partnership

The ABPI has just launched a highly innovative project with Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT.

The pilot project begins in February and is intended to overcome doctors' frustration with a constant stream of calls from different company sales representatives. Instead, the programme aims to co-ordinate and manage for the first time ever how pharmaceutical companies communicate with healthcare professionals in the area.

The project will be jointly funded, with a dedicated board reporting to the ABPI and PCT, and will also produce a new educational curriculum for healthcare professionals in the area.

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