NHS could save millions following ruling against drug companies

A landmark ruling against two drug companies has meant that the NHS could save hundreds of millions a year.

Novartis and Bayer have been trying to stop doctors in 12 NHS bodies in North East England from prescribing Avastin for eye treatment as it is not licensed for ocular use in the UK.

The NHS has been offering patients Lucentis and Eyea, which are licensed for eye treatment in the UK but cost hundreds of pounds more than Avastin.

David Hambleton, chief executive officer of NHS South Tyneside CCG, welcomed the judgment and said: ‘We've always said we think that it's important that patients should have the choice of a very effective treatment for wet AMD, and it's [Avastin] actually a fraction of the cost of the other alternatives. So, I think what we do now is offer patients that choice. We believe that they will support very strongly having a cost-effective, safe treatment and saving the NHS generally a lot of money. It is a victory for common sense over commercial interests.’

However, a spokesperson from Novartis said: ‘Novartis is deeply disappointed in this decision and remains of the opinion that the policy undermines the well-established legal and regulatory framework that is there to protect both patients' safety and to ensure health care professionals can prescribe with confidence.’

Helen Lee, RNIB policy and campaigns manager, said: ‘RNIB welcomes the clarity provided by the outcome of the judicial review. However, we are concerned that patients will be anxious about what this means for their treatment. It is critical each patient has the opportunity to have a full discussion with their clinician to give consent prior to switching or embarking on treatment. We know that some patients are permanently losing vision due to delayed and cancelled eye care appointments as services are struggling to cope with demand, so all savings generated by providing Avastin rather than licensed anti-VEGF drugs must be invested in eye care services.’