Malcolm on ways to widen the availability of new drugs
Health: extending universal access to new drugs Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
Does the cabinet secretary accept that the co-payment arrangements that she has announced today will be tolerable only if universal access to new drugs is extended rather than reduced? In that regard, will she vigorously pursue a range of risk-sharing arrangements with the various pharmaceutical companies, whether it is a free first cycle of treatment, such as is being offered in England with the kidney cancer drug Sutent, or the more typical risk-sharing arrangement that pertains, for example, in relation to the myeloma drug Velcade?

Nicola Sturgeon (The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing):

Yes - I agree strongly with Malcolm Chisholm. I said in my statement that co-payment should be the exception, not the rule. It is right that we provide guidance and a framework on such cases, but my priority and objective is improving access to drugs on the NHS, which was the main thrust of my statement. I believe passionately that that is the right approach.

I am glad that Malcolm Chisholm asked about patient access schemes, because in many ways that issue is the most significant aspect of my announcement. I have agreed that we will set up a framework for assessing patient access schemes. Of course, it will be for the drugs companies to produce proposed schemes, which will then be judged. Under the new arrangements, which are being finalised, a proposed patient access scheme will be assessed before the SMC is asked to carry out its usual evaluation. If the scheme has been approved or recommended, the SMC will be able to take that into account. Examples of patient access schemes south of the border - such as the recent one involving the drug Lucentis - demonstrate the potential for such schemes, as long as they are assessed properly, to help us open up access to new and innovative drugs, which is what we all want.
March 26th 2009, (Column 16138-9)