British pharmaceutical industry launches legal challenge against NHS

Following the introduction by the Department of Health (DoH) of a new NHS scheme to encourage GPs to switch patients on to alternative cheaper generic medications when available, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has declared that it is to enter into a judicial review action against the DoH.

31st July 2007

Following the introduction by the Department of Health (DoH) of a new NHS scheme to encourage GPs to switch patients on to alternative cheaper generic medications when available, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has declared that it is to enter into a judicial review action against the DoH.

The intention behind the contested NHS initiative is to ensure that when generic drugs equivalent to branded drugs are available then GPs prescribe the generics which are cheaper.  This latest initiative follows on from an observation by the National Audit Office that the NHS spends £500m too much on drugs used in the public sector and that there was a need to cut down drastically on the number of branded drugs being used by the health service.

Now that the ABPI has started judicial review proceedings, the DoH would appear to be in a relatively difficult position.  It must balance, on the one hand, complaints that it is spending too much money unnecessarily on branded drugs, while on the other hand, it is being criticised for the introduction of a scheme aimed at avoiding excessive spending by encouraging GPs to put patients on generics where possible.

While the ABPI is basing its judicial review action on alleged illegality under EU law it seems that, given the subject matter of this case, it will be of wider interest to health professionals, government and the public more generally.