Health Secretary urges action over Orkambi pricing and access to medicine

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Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care today called on drug manufacturer Vertex to be transparent on its pricing for the precision medicine Orkambi, and agreed to explore avenues for ensuring quicker access to medicine, in a session of oral questions on health, in Parliament today.

After Labour MP Ian Austin stated that ministers needed “to get a grip”, Mr Hunt agreed that action was needed, adding that he hoped that manufacturer would be accommodating to enable an agreement to be reached.

He said: “We need to pay fair prices and we have heard that they're (Vertex) coming back with a new offer next week. We hope it's a reasonable one, but we would urge them to waive commercial confidentiality so that we can all see in the interests of transparency the kind of prices they're trying to charge the NHS." 

In the same session, Mr Hunt agreed to a request from Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, to meet to discuss how to make sure new treatments are made available to those that need them. 

Mr Hunt said: “I also recognise that this is one of the things that we are not good at, at the moment. We have fantastic research, amazing new drugs developed in this country, but our uptake can be painfully slow.”

David Ramsden, Chief Executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, welcomed Mr Hunt’s comments, and urged both sides to be prepared to compromise in the interests of those who stand to benefit.

He said: “The Secretary of State’s comments are a reminder that, for thousands of people with cystic fibrosis, these negotiations are behind closed doors, and have no end in sight. Compromise is key and it must come from both sides.

“We agree that transparency is key to making a deal happen and encourage Vertex to make a bold new offer, but we would also welcome knowing what compromise the Government itself is willing to make to break this intolerable deadlock. 

“These discussions have taken far too long and every day is another that people with cystic fibrosis are denied access to this life-changing medicine.”

Watch the questions from Sarah Wollaston MP and Ian Austin MP on Parliament TV.

Find out more about the Trust’s campaign for access to medicines.

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