NHS delays in buying expensive drugs mean British cancer patients are now five times less likely to receive new medicines than those in France, Spain and Germany, businesses have warned.
The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said last night the shake-up means drug companies will increasingly launch new medicines in European countries other than the UK.
These measures introduce the prospect of a three-year delay for 20% of new cost effective medicines
Mike Thompson, ABPI Chief Executive
From today, patients could face delays accessing drugs if they cost £20 million or more in any of the first three years of rollout across the NHS.
Even when a new medicine has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the independent body which determines value for money, health chiefs at NHS England will be able to stall buying them for at least three years.
Campaigners say cancer patients are particularly likely to suffer from the expected delays.
The fears are backed up by a poll of ABPI members, 75 per cent of whom said the stance would have an effect.
The body said that for every 100 patients in France, Spain and Germany put on new drugs in the first year, just 17 patients in the UK currently get access.
Mike Thompson, its Chief Executive, said: “"The day after the NHS announces plans to a deliver a cancer diagnosis in just four weeks, these measures introduce the prospect of a three-year delay for 20% of new cost effective medicines.
"This means thousands of patients who stand to benefit the most, particularly those with cancer, will miss out on the very latest medical breakthroughs."
Cancer Research UK said it was “unacceptable” for NHS bosses to override a determination by NICE.
But NICE Chief Executive Sir Andrew Dillon said only a “minority” of drugs would be affected, adding that the NHS would have to make a case for each new medicine it intended to delay purchasing for patients.