The High Court has delivered a major victory for NHS England’s strategic sourcing and cost reduction endeavours to commissioning new treatment for hepatitis C by dismissing the challenge of an American pharmaceutical firm to the health service’s largest ever medicines procurement initiative.
NHS England (NHSE) had planned to end hepatitis C by 2025, a date that may have been derailed if the American pharma firm AbbVie had succeeded in its claim that that the health body had breached a duty to treat all bidders fairly. Thanks to the High Court decision, NHSE’s plans are now back on course. In April 2018, NHSE had embarked on the largest single medicines’ procurement initiative, worth almost £1bn over five years, in the history of the NHS. But, due to AbbVie’s legal challenge, contracts had to be delayed for six months. AbbVie’s case had been criticised by the NHS commissioning board, which had described it as ’embarrassing’ due to the dearth of specific details in the challenge.
Dismissing the legal challenge as “a waste of NHS resources and taxpayers’ money,” NHSE’s Director of Specialised Commissioning, John Stewart, said: “In this case, resulting in an unavoidable delay in our efforts to tackle the threat of hepatitis C, which disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society. We remain committed to driving best value to help eliminate hepatitis C in England by 2025 or sooner, and with this court case behind us we can now get on with the job.”
Hepatitis C is a highly infectious disease that can result in cancerous changes. According to Public Health England, approximately 160,000 people in England have the infection, although half of them are unaware that they carry it. New oral tablets can now cure the disease in weeks, long before it progresses to cause extensive liver damage. NHSE is now back on track to end it within the next six years.