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GPs vote to end patent protection after NHS England enforced branded pregabalin prescribing

GPs at the LMCs conference voted to push for an end to ‘second medical use’ drug patents in the NHS, after NHS England instructed GPs to switch prescriptions for pregabalin to the branded version.

The conference agreed ‘legislation is urgently needed to end patent protection for specific indications for pharmaceuticals’ in a move tacitly supported by the GPC.

The vote was on part of a motion put by Dr Nick Bray from Somerset LMC, who said ‘the recent guidance from NHS England to prescribe pregabalin as Lyrica for its use in neuropathic pain sets a very worrying precedent’.

He added: ‘For the first time doctors were instructed to prescribe by brand name for a specific indication.This runs contrary to guidance in the BNF and also to good practice guidance from the GMC.

‘Not surprisingly there are likely to be more products looking for second patents in the future. Many biological agents are currently being investigated for second indications and liraglutide is currently being trialled as a dementia drug. This is an issue that needs urgent action and we believe legislation.’

Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, told delegates they needed to decide whether they ‘believe what you have seen over the past six months has indeed been a noble effort to protect new research into old drugs, or whether you think this is a squalid little money grab?’

Conference passed other parts of the motion as references - to address issues of category M classification, pricing of generics and supply problems that Dr Bray said were ‘causing massive headaches for GPs in obtaining drugs for their patients’.

Motion in full

That conference believes that generic prescribing should always result in the lowest acquisition cost for the NHS, and that:
i) category M classification distorts the market and should be ended
ii) price stability for generic products should be maintained
iii) legislation is urgently needed to end patent protection for specific indications for pharmaceuticals
iv) direct intervention to ensure continuity of supply of widely used generic products is required.

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