Health | Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:09pm IST

Lawmakers slam slow progress on UK drug pricing overhaul

LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers have criticized the government's failure to detail a new system for medicines pricing that is due to be introduced next January, saying lack of clarity is creating uncertainty for industry and doctors.

The House of Commons Health Committee called on the government on Wednesday to make clear its plans by the end of March 2013.

"There has been extensive discussion of the principle of value-based pricing but it remains a source of concern that so little progress has been made on defining this nebulous concept," the committee said in a report.

The government announced in 2010 that it planned an overhaul medicine pricing from 2014 by adopting a new system of "value-based pricing" - a concept that has so far not been clearly defined.

Drug prices are under growing pressure across Europe as governments tackle ballooning budget deficits, and firms fear the British changes might lead to direct price controls or further obstacles to launching new therapies.

"We do not regard it as acceptable that the arrangements for value-based pricing have still not been settled and that those who will have to work with those arrangements are still unclear about what value-based pricing will mean in practice," the committee said.

"Industry needs certainty about how it should bring its products to the NHS (National Health Service), and patient groups and clinicians need to understand what their role will be and how they can make their views heard."

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)

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