With the Government aiming to increase innovation within the NHS, pharma has been tasked with helping to meet the challenge. Omar Ali, in his Matrix Revolutions series, focuses on the means to help the industry find the next big thing.
With so many documents to read – white papers, NHS initiatives and DH directives – keeping tabs on the direction of travel of the NHS, as well as the pace of change, makes life difficult; and that’s not including the latest clinical trials, review publications and NICE guidance. In this issue of the Matrix Revolutions, I want to review one of the most important and potentially game changing documents to have
crossed my desk: Innovation, Health and Wealth.
The document comes under ‘improvement and efficiency’ from the DH and has an impressive circulation list. However, if the cascade didn’t get past those at directorship level, the average GP and healthcare professional may not have received what is a very important document. It also goes hand-in-hand with a story from NICE in February – Improving access to NICE-approved drugs – which provided the NHS with a best-practice guide on the implementation of local formularies in accordance with national guidance.
Innovation, Health and Wealth calls for all NHS organisations to come to ‘action’ by starting planning processes for the implementation of innovative new treatments approved by NICE.
“…while the NHS is recognised as a world leader in invention, the spread of those inventions within the NHS has often been too slow, and sometimes even the best of them fail to achieve widespread use”
I think we would all recognise this symptom of the NHS and list numerous examples. The UK is well known in being conservative with its adoption and prescribing of new drugs. But when NICE makes deep probing evaluations of new treatments it may be disturbing to find such variation in the implementation of best practice and subsequent availability of new medicines for patients.
It’s well known that when HTA agencies reject drugs the NHS is very good at implementing rapid ‘decommissioned’ formularies, which make general prescribing and availability very limited. However, when NICE does approve a new treatment, the variable uptake observed within the NHS as a whole has resulted in this new initiative.
“The challenge both for the NHS and for its industry partners is to pursue innovations that genuinely add value but not cost”
This is interesting how it adds up… I’m supposed to work with you to find innovations that don’t add cost… The problem with documents is rhetoric and direction. In reality, implementation will come down to precise and specific details. There are not many new drugs that ‘don’t add cost’ – they all add cost! The modelling comes in finding those that may offset some of the costs (QIPP).
“This report has been developed as part of the Prime Minister’s UK Strategy for Health Innovation and Life Sciences. The aim of this strategy is to ensure that the UK maintains and builds on its world leading position for life sciences, that the potential of life sciences to contribute to UK growth is realised, and that the UK remains and grows as an attractive location for investment now and in the future”
The flavour of the document paints a clear picture of investment from pharma which will potentially deteriorate within the UK due to poor uptake/diffusion by the NHS. The difficulty lays in that ‘uptake’ criteria for the NHS doesn’t have ‘investment’ as part of the decision process. For example, if a company invests millions into UK R&D and produces a poor, non-innovative and non-cost effective drug, should we put it on formulary due to the fact they have invested in the UK economy? If the answer is ‘yes’, we all need to change the paradigm and throw QIPP out of the window. I guess the alternative is how long can pharma keep resourcing UK investment and see no return? Not long in this climate. Surely then the answer is as seen above: the challenge of making new, innovative drugs cost effective.
Having helped bring NHS payers, CCG commissioners and pharma together, it brings some common ground on market access. I have found that with all of the details, some dedicated quality time with stakeholders and some flexibility from pharma, we can always find some manner of value-added to the product and/or a financial/value proposition that changes the paradigm. The truth is we don’t spend enough quality time talking together about the real issues. We tend to spend poorly co-ordinated NHS/pharma interactions looking at insane cost-models and budget impacts that are largely irrelevant. Add to that ABPI/compliance and internal concordance issues, and the NHS and pharma are often dancing around the tables instead of having decent commercial business discussions that pave the way to a healthier, wealthier future for both.
“Poor access to evidence, data and metrics”
I have been impressed with some of the data informatics I have seen that actually represent data handling with a view to Secondary Uses Service (SUS) information, hospital episodes and prescribing by the CCG sector or a PCT. Here, pharma is beginning to excel themselves and it does have an influence on working together. This approach is far better than those companies who have a black-box approach to health economics.
“Insufficient recognition and celebration of innovation and innovators”
It’s hard for NHS innovators to ‘step out’ and stick their heads above the parapets when those around them are stuck in the same old ways. Far from recognition or reward, one can expect pushing uphill and against the grain. The only way to succeed here is to believe in the cause of innovation and true improvement. My feeling is those ‘beacons of light’ are beginning to shine in healthcare – and love it or hate it – one of the strengths of the Health Bill is bringing those leaders to the forefront through sheer necessity. My observation is that the pharma culture celebrates innovation from the core – it’s what you do and what you believe in. Being an optimist, I believe pharma has a role on the ground in bringing some of that innovation to ‘rub-off’ on your NHS customers.
“Financial levers do not reward innovators and can act as a disincentive to adoption and diffusion”
You may have read my previous Matrix Revolutions ‘case’ on Prolia (denosumab) – it had a NICE TAG but saw variable uptake, even a year after its recommendation. This case clearly outlined how micro-economics and financial levers can stall the introduction of new innovative therapies. But getting the tariffs to match, commissioning to fund and finding the code to unlock prescribing took a long time… why? Partly because our own informatics is poor – an example of the NHS barrier – and partly because dealing with payer issues doesn’t come first-hand to most brand teams.
Other financial levers that will inhibit uptake include:
- Enhanced LES & DES warfarin payments to GPs which will be a threatened source of income with new oral anticoagulants.
- QoF cholesterol targets of 5mmol/l in the face of innovative agents which may achieve lower cholesterol targets and reduced outcomes.
- QIPP Indicators aiming for a percentage of metformin and sulphonylurea when newer agents for type 2 diabetes reduce incidence of hypoglycaemic episodes and save money on blood glucose testing strips.
In the next issue of Matrix Revolutions, Omar Ali continues to review the DH’s modernisation plans and also focuses on what makes the diffusion of innovation happen.
Omar Ali is the Formulary Development Pharmacist for Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and sits on the External Reference Group for Cost Impact Modelling for NICE. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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