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DRUG companies are ripping off the NHS to the tune of tens of billions pounds a year, statistics from management body NHS England revealed yesterday.
They showed that companies supplying medications charged the NHS £20.2 billion last year — an increase of 10.9 per cent.
The increase far outstrips inflation and is around three times higher than extra cash given to the NHS by taxpayers.
Campaign group Global Justice Now condemned the increase as “exploitative” and said the government should take action to curb the companies’ blatant greed.
The group says that patients are being denied access to vital drugs because of spiralling costs.
In one example, the family of a girl with cystic fibrosis has launched a legal challenge after being denied access to breakthrough drug Orkambi, for which manufacturer Vertex Pharmaceuticals is demanding over £100,000 per year.
After years of negotiation, Vertex Pharmaceutical has refused to offer the drug at a price the NHS can afford.
Global Justice Now's pharmaceuticals campaigner Heidi Chow said: “It is outrageous that the NHS is paying such high prices for existing drugs.
“At the same time, patients are being denied access to effective drugs, even though they exist, because their price tag is just too high for the NHS.
“We treasure the principle of public healthcare for all, free at the point of use, but this is undermined by our system of privatised medicines.
“We have to question what is going wrong in this system and recognise that medicines are not luxury goods like handbags but an urgent necessity. The government must take a much more pro-active role in safeguarding patient access to essential treatments.”
She said that some of the drugs had been developed with public funding but were being subjected to bloated prices by manufacturers.
At local level, Nicola Jackson of a campaign group fighting to prevent closure of the accident and emergency unit of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in West Yorkshire, said: “People are dying because of the pharmaceutical companies’ greed.
“And that’s what it is, pure greed. Health treatment should not be about profit. It should be about people’s needs.”
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