Drugs

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Ken Lomas Mr Ken Lomas , Huddersfield West 12:00 am, 2nd May 1966

asked the Minister of Health if he will set up a committee to inquire into the profits of firms supplying drugs to the National Health Service.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

This subject falls within the terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry which the Government appointed last year to examine the relationship of the pharmaceutical industry with the National Health Service.

Photo of Mr Ken Lomas Mr Ken Lomas , Huddersfield West

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the most recent example of profiteering, inasmuch as Messrs. Pfizer were producing a drug identical to one produced by I.C.I. but selling it at three times the price. Is this being considered by the Committee, or would my right hon. Friend consider asking the First Secretary of State to refer this matter to the National Board for Prices and Incomes?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

No, Sir. I think this matter had better be left for the Committee which has been set up to examine this and related problems. I understand that the Committee has sent out a detailed financial questionnaire to pharmaceutical firms.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

In order to put this matter into proper perspective, would the Minister confirm that in fact the price index for 1,200 major prescriptions of medicines actually declined by 4 per cent. per annum in 1962 and 1963 and rose by only 2 per cent. in the whole period between 1955 and 1965, although at the same time the prices of manufactured goods as a whole rose by 26 per cent.?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

I should want notice before I could confirm or deny the figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman. It is a fact that we have been able very recently to negotiate some substantial reductions in drug prices through the voluntary price regulation scheme.