We call on stakeholders involved in the VPAS negotiations to involve charitable organisations in the upcoming review about the future of the scheme.

Dear Sir Hugh and Mr Watson,

We are writing to you in your capacity leading respectively the government and the industry negotiating teams for the next Voluntary Scheme for branded medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS).

We are advocacy organisations from the Charity Medicines Access Coalition (CMAC), Cancer52, and the Blood Cancer Alliance, representing around 200 charities. We are the voice of millions of people across the UK living with a range of conditions.

We are writing to call on you to involve charitable organisations in the review of the access and uptake related elements of the discussions about the future of the scheme.

These are exciting times in medical research. Innovations in drug discovery and development, diagnosis and data science are unlocking new avenues of treatment. As organisations we are committed to ensuring that people in the UK have fast and equitable access to these innovations, at a price that is fair to the NHS.

The VPAS is designed to make the UK an attractive place to bring medicines to market whilst also making sure that spending on medicines grows at a manageable rate. Our view is that while some progress has been made over this scheme, we have not gone far enough in achieving its objectives to make innovative medicines accessible to everyone who would benefit from them. Many disease areas, including those with high unmet need, either face significant delays or are unable to access new, effective treatments.

We have appreciated the opportunity to speak with both of your organisations on this important topic over recent months and are aware that formal negotiations are due to start in the very near future. We welcome the recent proposals from the ABPI which, among other things, acknowledges that pricing issues must be addressed in the scheme. We have also shared our briefing containing our 6 tests for the negotiations which is also attached here for reference.

Whilst the VPAS represents a commercial negotiation between the pharmaceutical industry, the Government, and the NHS, the implications for people’s access to medicines in the UK are potentially far-reaching. As we have mentioned in our conversations, we believe consideration needs to be given to a mechanism for ensuring meaningful input from people and communities into the development and implementation of the scheme.

We are not asking to be involved in the confidential negotiations between industry and government as that would not be appropriate. However, we believe that the review of the section of the VPAS most relevant to our members (Chapter 3 – Access, Uptake and Outcomes) is a conversation which would be welcomed outside of the formal negotiations over the next few months and with meaningful engagement from the groups we represent.

We hope you will give full consideration to this proposal and would be happy to discuss this further. Given stakeholder interest in this topic we will be making this correspondence publicly available. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Sophie Castell
CEO, Myeloma UK and Co-chair of the Blood Cancer Alliance

Jane Lyons
CEO, Cancer52

Fiona Hazell
CEO, Leukaemia UK and Co-chair of the Blood Cancer Alliance

David Thomas
Head of Policy, Alzheimer’s Research UK and chair of Charity Medicines Access Coalition