Duty to have regard to the life sciences sector and access to new medicines and treatments

Part of Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill (Programme) (No. 2) – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 15th March 2017.

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Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health 4:29 pm, 15th March 2017

As ever, my right hon. Friend, who is a champion of market solutions to some of these tricky problems, lights on an important point. We need to be better at trying to predict the take-up of medicines. Of course, until a new medicine has been introduced, it is very difficult to assess that, because it requires clinicians to get behind the product and to choose to prescribe it. He is absolutely right that we need to look at the way in which we model in order to have a negotiation with the pharmaceutical company that ensures that we build in as good a volume as we are expecting to maximise our prospects of getting the best price.

Let me return to Lords amendments 8, 9 and 15 to 17. When the Government ask a company to provide straightforward information about prices and other transaction costs or overall costs, there is no need for an information notice. The rationale is that there could be a significant burden on companies to provide product-level cost information. Any such request should be made only in exceptional circumstances—for example, in order to set the price of an unbranded generic medicine, when the Government would need insight into the costs and profits associated with the specific product.

Lords amendments 10 to 14 were intended to reflect the report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place, which considered that the power to prescribe in regulations that any person other than the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers could disclose information was too wide. Lords amendments 10, 13 and 14 specify health service bodies and NHS foundation trusts. In respect of other amendments made to the NHS (Wales) Act 2006, the Committee thought that the penalties that Welsh Ministers could impose for non-compliance should be included in the Bill and not left to regulations, and that is what amendments 11 and 12 would achieve.

Lords amendments 18, 19 and 20 are consequential amendments relating to the extent of the Bill. Lords amendments 21 to 24 are partly consequential, and partly provide for flexibility to allow the provisions to come into force in Northern Ireland at a later stage if necessary. Unfortunately, as Members will know, the Northern Ireland Assembly was unable to pass a legislative consent motion on the Bill before it was dissolved.

I believe that those Government amendments, built on engagement with Members of both Houses and with industry, will help to improve the Bill further.