The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has expressed concern about the low level of uptake of some new medicines among NHS patients. As many as 1.2 million patients who are eligible for NHS treatment programmes may be missing out, according to new research carried out by PwC on behalf of the ABPI.

The survey was restricted to four areas of disease, namely; stroke, kidney disease, asthma, and type 2 diabetes, meaning that the findings may represent just the tip of an iceberg. With better quality care, such patients could be helped to live fuller and longer lives, as well as remaining economically productive to the effect of £17.9bn per year.

The report’s authors cite the gains in productivity as a reason to invest more in increasing the uptake of certain medicines. In particular, severe asthma medicines stand to offer a combined extra 153,900 years of life to patients, and help them to remain independent and economically active, adding an extra £9.6bn to the economy each year.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “The pandemic has starkly highlighted the relationship between the health of the population and the health of the economy. Medicines and vaccines are playing a vital role in getting us all back to work.”

He added: “This report shows how we can use the experience from COVID to prevent and treat other diseases which create a drag on the economy. The evidence is clear; providing patients with the medicines they are eligible for will help people live longer, healthier lives, while growing the economy and increasing tax receipts for the government.”

“Investment in medicines is already creating more efficient and effective health services in countries around the world, resulting in better health outcomes and improved survival rates. We should be striving for the same.”

The report identified three major challenges which are preventing the full potential of NHS treatments to be realised. The first is that compared to comparable healthcare systems in other countries, the NHS patients in the UK have lower access to new medicines.

Recommendations on levels of availability made by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) are not being met by significant margins, in many cases. The average wait between licencing and first use is 335 days in England, compared to just 120 days in Germany.

Furthermore, new medicines launched in the UK over the last five years have a per-capita use of just 64% of the average of comparable nations with national healthcare systems. The UK lags behind many developed nations in survival rates for cancer, COPD, and stroke.

All this is despite the fact that the UK is home to a highly innovative and thriving pharmaceutical research industry, with several thousand clinical trials taking place each year. These often result in ground breaking new discoveries, as was demonstrated by the development and rapid rollout of the Covid vaccines.

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