£15 billion and counting… Can we afford our medicine?

Patient engagement is the key to unlocking the pressing issue of how the UK can afford its increasing expenditure on medicines – according to speakers at a public event held by the British Pharmacological Society on 9 June during The Times Cheltenham Science Festival. Entitled “Can we afford our medicine?”, the event will call for research to understand UK patients’ preferences: • Which areas of medicine should be prioritised nationally?• At what level or in what circumstances do improvements in life expectancy or quality of life represent value for money? • How would society benefit from improved use of anonymised patient medical records?

Chaired by well-known broadcaster Vivienne Parry, an expert panel made up of the British Pharmacological Society’s President Professor David Webb, clinical pharmacologist Professor Ken Paterson and clinical trial expert Dr Frances MacDonald will discuss imaginative new approaches to developing and funding new medicines and ask for a second opinion from members of the public.

“Clinical pharmacologists are well-positioned across academia, industry and the health service to respond to the changing nature of medicines and to meet the needs of patients in the 21st century. But on the value of medicines for patients we are essentially working in a knowledge vacuum,” explains the British Pharmacological Society’s President Professor David Webb. “Patients and volunteers play an essential role during clinical trials when we develop new medicines in the UK: maintaining patient involvement and working together will enable us to ensure exciting innovations like personalised medicines can be an affordable reality for the NHS.”

The total overall NHS expenditure on medicines is over £15 billion a year, up 8 per cent from the year before.1 However, the cost to industry for nurturing one new medicine through development and approval for use in patients was recently estimated at £1.8 billion.2 As a result, the National Audit Office has identified the “the increasing volume of effective but expensive new drugs” as one of the key factors creating financial pressure on the NHS.3

The British Pharmacological Society represents a global community of over 3,500 scientists working across universities, industry, regulatory agencies and the health services, many of whom are medically qualified. Clinical pharmacology is the only medical specialty in the NHS focusing on the safe, effective, and economic use of medicines, making room for the pioneering medicines of tomorrow, which clinical pharmacologists also play a crucial role in developing. 

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