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GPs given all clear to strike price deals with drug firms

By Christian Duffin

Exclusive: GPs will be allowed to strike deals with pharma companies to make expensive drugs available to patients and receive compensation if they do not work well enough, after changes in the pharmaceutical industry's code of ethics.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has altered its code so it 'does not preclude' so-called risk-sharing agreements, but has stressed strict conditions must be met to ensure individual GPs do not benefit personally from them.

The changes outlined in the ABPI's revised code of conduct will apply specifically to GP consortia and primary care organisations rather than individual practices, and have been made to bring 'transparency' in risk sharing and patient access agreements, an APBI spokesperson told Pulse.

Dr Charles Alessi, a GP in Kingston, Surrey, and chair of NAPC London, said GP consortia would now be able to negotiate risk-sharing agreements with pharmaceutical companies applying outcome targets to use of drugs – for example, on exacerbations and hospital admissions for COPD.

Risk-sharing agreements typically involve the agreement that a company will provide a full or partial refund of the price paid for a medicine if it fails to meet certain criteria.

Dr Alessi said: ‘It used to be impossible to have a conversation with pharmaceutical companies about anything other than drugs. Now it'll be possible to have a conversation about a pathway.

'These changes in the ABPI code help with the development of the relationships between consortia and the pharmaceutical industry. The potential for us to develop better care for our populations is significant.'

But Dr Ron Singer, a GP in north London, and president of Unite's Medical Practitioners' Union, said the move would prove a 'problem'.

'When health care providers get together with drug companies to decide which drugs to use for patients in advance of seeing each patient there is a problem. Potential colusion between providers and drug companies should be resisted, avoided and seen as poor clinical care'

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said that risk-sharing agreements and patient access schemes were fine in principle, but added: 'It's crucial that the money saved does not go into the pockets of individuals, but for NHS use.'

Manufacturers and sponsors have to get permission for patient access schemes from the Department of Health in conjunction with NICE.

A DH spokesperson said: 'Risk-sharing schemes have been successful in helping to increase patient access to important new drugs. We are reviewing patient access schemes.'

GPs given all clear to strike price deals with drug firms