Compulsory licensing to secure generic versions of patented medicines would “completely undermine” medicines development, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has said in its response to plans announced by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on 24 September 2019, Corbyn launched the ‘Medicines for many’ campaign, which he said would create a health innovation system to “put public health before private profit”.
As part of the programme, Corbyn announced plans to secure generic versions of patented medicines at an “affordable” price to the NHS and create a new, publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the health services.
He told the conference: “We’ll tell the drug companies that, if they want public research funding, then they’ll have to make their drugs affordable for all, and we will create a new publicly owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS, saving our health service money and saving lives at the same time.”
In his speech, Corbyn referred to the case of Orkambi, a lumacftor/ivacaftor therapy used to treat cystic fibrosis, in which its manufacturer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, rejected NHS England’s offer made in July 2018 of £500m over five years to license the drug in the UK.
This followed the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s ruling in June 2016 that, at £104,000 per patient per year, the medicine did not provide sufficient value for money.
However, the ABPI said that although the situation with Orkambi was “clearly unacceptable”, it was also “rare”.
“‘Compulsory licensing’ — the seizure of new research — is not the answer,” said Richard Torbett, executive director of commercial policy at the ABPI.
“It would completely undermine the system for developing new medicines. It would send a hugely negative signal to British scientists and would discourage research in a country that wants to be a leader in innovation.”