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Encouraging innovation and avoiding uderspending

| December 1st 2011

The cost of new medicines is often an argument in the ‘postcode prescribing’ debate, but new data suggests that most Health Boards inWaleshave been under-spending  their medicines budgets for several years.

Figures compiled for the ABPI show that the health service inWalesunder-spent their medicines allocation from the Welsh Government by over £70m in 2009/10, and it remains unclear how these resources were spent.

The under-spends are even more surprising given the demographics ofWales. One fifth of the Welsh population is now aged over 65 and the proportion of elderly people is growing faster here than in any other part of theUK. But despite the added pressures of chronic illness on the NHS inWales, investment in new medicines that could reduce hospital admissions and improve patient outcomes is severely lagging behindEngland.

The slow rate of growth in primary care medicines expenditure in Wales in recent years has been in the context of fast growth in total NHS spending, and the difference is now greater here than in any other country in the UK.

A report by the Office of Health Economics for ABPI Cymru Wales has revealed that three years after licensing, use per person in Wales of new medicines recommended without restriction by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), is less than half that in England.

Surely we must do more to encourage more routine use of medicines recognised by the AWMSG or NICE as having a proven clinical and cost effective evidence base?

Innovations in medicine such as those to tackle Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) have been shown to bring substantial benefits to patients and the NHS. Statins have helped to reduce the consequences of CHD such as angioplasty, hospitalisation from stroke and heart bypass operations. A report by NERA for the ABPI inWalesestimated that statins could save around 112,000 bed days over 5 years and almost 3,000 lives. The economic benefit toWalesof such a large reduction in mortality was in excess of £3.5bn.

Walesis set to save over £180 million over the next 3 years as a number of ground-breaking and popular medicines lose their patent and exclusivity of supply. We need to invest these savings into innovative new medicines and encourage the health service to embrace innovation.

Lesley Griffiths’ five year vision Together for Health is based on a shift away from expensive hospital settings to more community driven healthcare. The report by the OHE said we must not ignore the potential benefits of investment in innovative and cost effective medicines and how they could enable more patients to be treated at home.

According to the 2009 Welsh Health Survey, 82% of the over 65s have at least one long term condition. The routine use of new and innovative medicines could play an important role in keeping more people well – and out of expensive hospitals.

The report Health and the Use of Medicines in Primary Care in Wales is available here

Rick Greville, Director of ABPI Cymru Wales

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