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Health Secretary Matt Hancock calls in pharma bosses over cystic fibrosis drug costs

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock calls in pharma bosses to break four-year deadlock over cost of cystic fibrosis drugs

  • Health Secretary attempts to break deadlock over cost of cystic fibrosis drugs
  • Matt Hancock plans to sit down with pharmaceutical bosses to end price row
  • Up to 4,000 people could benefit from the life-extending drug Orkambi 
  • The Scottish Government yesterday reached a deal with Orkambi maker Vertex

Pharmaceutical bosses have been summoned to a meeting with Health Secretary Matt Hancock in an attempt to break a four-year deadlock over the cost of cystic fibrosis drugs.

Up to 4,000 patients in England could benefit from life-extending drug Orkambi – but they are denied the treatment because of an ongoing row over its £104,000-a-year price.

The argument flared up again yesterday when the Scottish government announced it had managed to reach a deal with maker Vertex – enabling the supply of Orkambi and similar drug Symkevi to 350 cystic fibrosis patients north of the border.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, above, will sit down with pharmaceutical bosses. Orkambi – licensed in Europe in November 2015 – could improve the health of around 40 per cent of the 10,000 people with the condition in England

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, above, will sit down with pharmaceutical bosses. Orkambi – licensed in Europe in November 2015 – could improve the health of around 40 per cent of the 10,000 people with the condition in England

NHS officials last night insisted Vertex is at fault for the fact English patients are continuing to miss out, claiming the company is an ‘extreme outlier’ in its ‘monopoly pricing’ and accusing it of a failure to ‘price fairly and responsibly’.

Negotiations have been at a standstill since Vertex this year rejected an offer of £500million over five years for access to Orkambi. 

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The Health Secretary will be bringing in Vertex representatives to explore what the barriers are to reaching an agreement.

‘NHS England has put forward a very generous offer, the largest in its 70-year history, that would make Orkambi available to NHS patients in England and we urge Vertex to accept the deal so patients can benefit from treatment as soon as possible.’ 

Up to 4,000 patients in England could benefit from life-extending drug Orkambi – but they are denied the treatment because of an ongoing row over its £104,000-a-year price. Protesters are pictured outside Westminster over the incident

Up to 4,000 patients in England could benefit from life-extending drug Orkambi – but they are denied the treatment because of an ongoing row over its £104,000-a-year price. Protesters are pictured outside Westminster over the incident

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder mostly affecting the lungs – that shortens life expectancy.

Orkambi – licensed in Europe in November 2015 – could improve the health of around 40 per cent of the 10,000 people with the condition in England.

Nick Medhurst, of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, last night said the argument had resulted in untold harm to the health of thousands of people. 

He blamed a ‘communication failure’ between Vertex and health officials, saying both parties are ‘playing a game’.

A spokesman for Vertex said chief executive Dr Jeff Leiden had agreed to meet Mr Hancock ‘to continue dialogue at the highest level’.

She added: ‘Our employees focus every single day on progressing the negotiations.’

The argument flared up again yesterday when the Scottish government announced it had managed to reach a deal with maker Vertex – enabling the supply of Orkambi and similar drug Symkevi to 350 cystic fibrosis patients north of the border

The argument flared up again yesterday when the Scottish government announced it had managed to reach a deal with maker Vertex – enabling the supply of Orkambi and similar drug Symkevi to 350 cystic fibrosis patients north of the border

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