CMA removes barriers to access to vital treatments on the NHS

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today issued a statement clarifying that certain types of engagements between competing pharmaceutical companies working on ‘combination therapies’ will not be prioritized for investigation – creating a significant risk for pharmaceutical companies. It will become easier to work together to develop. Use in the NHS. The CMA statement comes in response to concerns that the CMA could intervene under competition law to stop this type of collaboration.

Combination therapies combine two or more individual drugs into one treatment and have become important for the treatment of many serious conditions, most commonly cancer. They may provide better health outcomes than individual drugs because, in combination, these drugs can target the disease more effectively.

These combination treatments can only be approved for use on the NHS if they are shown to be ‘cost effective’. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) told the CMA that, since 2017, half of the combination treatments involving cancer treatments submitted to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for assessment were withdrawn. Is. The process was assessed as not being completely effective or cost effective.

In some cases, the combination will only be ‘cost effective’ and commercially viable if there is some form of collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, and businesses have raised concerns that such collaboration could be scrutinized by the CMA. Therefore, the CMA is playing its role by clarifying where and how competing pharmaceutical companies can work together to meet cost-effectiveness thresholds and give these important medicines a greater chance of bringing them to market.

The CMA has worked closely with the ABPI, NHS England (NHSE) and NICE to deliver this public statement, and with relevant bodies in all 4 countries of the UK to help ensure that patients can benefit , no matter where they are. By complying with the conditions outlined in the CMA’s statement, pharmaceutical companies will be able to negotiate a commercial agreement with the comfort that the CMA will not prioritize this conduct for investigation. However, information exchanged between pharmaceutical companies must be limited to what is strictly necessary to reach a commercial agreement, and pharmaceutical companies cannot share the confidential pricing of their individual drugs.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director of Antitrust, said:

Thousands of NHS patients are missing out on innovative combination treatments. Concerns from competing pharmaceutical companies that they would breach competition law by working together is not the only reason more of these treatments are not available to NHS patients, but the CMA is playing its part by explaining how the companies Can negotiate and avoid it. Is being investigated.

Our statement is designed to provide clarity and comfort to companies following the rules, with the aim of ultimately enabling more people to access vital treatments. This is not a ‘free pass’, and any company engaging in anti-competitive behavior will continue to be vigorously investigated by the CMA.

Fiona Bride, director of medicines value and access at NHS England, said:

NHS patients are already benefiting from access to combination cancer treatments, but it is clear that industry concerns about competition law may hinder the wider range of combination treatments reaching those patients who could benefit.

This important step from the CMA now provides a clear position that in specific circumstances, commercial deals involving multiple medicines licensed by different companies can be agreed, so that NHS patients can access the latest combination treatments for a number of conditions at a reasonable price. Can benefit from. Taxpayer.

Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at NICE, said:

NICE is seeing an increasing number of combination therapies through its Health Technology Assessment pipeline, so it is important for us to support the CMA in making this statement.

We believe that allowing companies to connect with each other in these specific circumstances will increase the opportunities for these treatments to progress through NICE assessment. With this, patients are likely to get better treatment faster.

As well as the benefits to patients from having more combination therapies available on the NHS, there are wider benefits for development and innovation in the pharmaceutical sector. More companies should have the confidence to invest and bring combination therapies to market, ultimately delivering greater value for money for the NHS. These objectives are in line with the CMA’s annual plan for 2023 to 2024, which puts people, businesses and the UK economy at the heart of its work.

Notes to editors

  1. You can read the full statement here. As circumstances evolve, the CMA may, as appropriate, reconsider and/or update its statement.
  2. Combination therapies are being developed for many serious diseases such as advanced renal cell carcinoma, lymphatic leukemia, multiple myeloma, lung, breast and metastatic gastric cancer. The clinical potential of combination therapy has also been recognized in non-cancer diseases, including the treatment of HIV, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis and COVID-19.
  3. The CMA’s statement of not giving priority to investigations under the Competition Act 1998 applies to specific types of engagements entered into in accordance with the framework of negotiations between drug manufacturers, which are undertaken in good faith and make a combination therapy available to NHS patients. Are for the purpose of getting. It applies only where certain market characteristics are present and specific conditions are met, as stated in the statement. Apart from these specific circumstances, this statement does not provide any advice or guidance on how the CMA will apply competition law in the pharmaceutical sector.
  4. Today’s statement is in line with the CMA’s strategy, as set out in its annual plan for 2023 to 2024, focusing on action on key areas of consumer spending – in particular, in this case , taking care of yourself and others. It is also an example of how the CMA is enabling open access to markets for businesses to innovate, so that the whole UK economy can grow productively and sustainably.
  5. All media inquiries should be directed to the CMA Press Office by email at or by phone on 020 3738 6460.

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