The Labour Party would abolish prescription charges in England, according to its 2019 general election manifesto.
The commitment was originally made by Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on 22 September 2019.
The manifesto also reiterates the Labour Party’s pledge to establish a state-owned generic drugs company. Orkambi — the cystic fibrosis medicine at the centre of a three-year pricing battle between the government and the manufacturer, Vertex — is, it says, “just the latest example of patients held to ransom by corporations charging extortionate prices for life-saving drugs”. The manifesto goes on to say that “if fair prices are rejected for patented drugs; we will use the Patents Act provisions, compulsory licences and research exemptions to secure access to generic versions”.
The party also says that it will “aim to increase the number of pharmaceutical jobs in the UK”.
Among other pledges, the manifesto says that the Labour Party would “roll out [the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)] medication” that is currently available in England and Wales through pilot research schemes. PrEP has been available on the NHS in Scotland since 2017, for those at the highest risk of contracting HIV. The Party also promises to “progress clinically appropriate prescriptions of medical cannabis” and put the NHS “at the forefront of the development of genomics and cell therapies”.
The manifesto pledges, that under a Labour Party government, drug-related deaths and alcohol-related health problems would be addressed “as matters of public health, treated accordingly in expanded addiction support services”.