UK trials subscription scheme to lure pharma into drug development

The initiative pays pharmaceuticals upfront for access to drugs based on their usefulness to the NHS

The UK government is trialling a ‘subscription’ model that pays pharmaceutical companies upfront for access to drugs based on their usefulness to the NHS. The trial is led by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The initiative aims to make it more attractive for companies to invest in the development of new drugs, as they can be reassured they will still be paid for the drug even though it may be stored for reserves. New drug development is estimated to take anything in the £1 billion mark.

Currently, drugs companies are paid by volume of antibiotics sold, while the NHS is trying to reduce their use to prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Low returns on investment in development mean the industry is reluctant to invest in the research and clinical trials necessary to bring new antibiotics to market.

Call for products

NICE and NHS England and NHS Improvement are calling for companies to identify products to be considered for the initial phase of the test.

The work will be evaluated from the start and findings will be shared with the rest of the world so that other healthcare systems can test similar models.

Antibiotics have started to fail, with resistant bacteria already causing more than 700,000 deaths globally every year, making it vital that antibiotics are used only when needed.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, commented: "Imagine a world in which a papercut can lead to infection that can’t be controlled. We must stop that from happening. Tackling superbugs needs global leadership and peoples’ lives depend on us finding a new way forward.

"Our NHS is in a unique position to take a global lead in testing new payment models. We will take the lead but this is a global problem and we cannot succeed alone."

Today’s announcement follows the government’s 2040 AMR vision and 5-year national action plan, published in January, and the appointment of Professor Dame Sally Davies as the first UK Special Envoy on AMR.

The latest phase of the ‘Keep Antibiotics Working Campaign’ will launch at the beginning of coughs and colds season this October to help reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: "This project is an important step but it will only address global market failure if other countries do the same, which is why we want to involve as many countries as we can and share our learning from this work."

Companies