We met with Pfizer UK’s head honcho

At the end of November Just Treatment campaigners Emma and Diarmaid went to meet with Pfizer UK’s boss, Erik Nordkamp. We’d just won our campaign for them to drop the price of breast cancer drug palbociclib and they’d agreed to speak to us about it.

Mr Erik Nordkamp with Emma and Diarmaid

Mr Erik Nordkamp with Emma and Diarmaid

The meeting came a week after Pfizer and the NHS had struck a deal to make the cancer treatment available in the UK. Mr Nordkamp confirmed that Pfizer had agreed to reduce their unaffordable price to something the NHS was able to pay.

We were delighted that they accepted their price was too high and had reduced it, but we still had some questions for the company.

Firstly, we wanted to know how much the NHS would have to pay. But the deal struck with the NHS is confidential and drug companies never want to reveal this information. As we expected, Pfizer refused to tell us the true price. This is a problem, because we have no idea whether or not the NHS is getting a fair deal for the medicines it is buying with our taxes. We can be certain it is a much higher price than the £1 per pill we know palbociclib could be made and sold for.

We also wanted an update on access to palbociclib in Scotland, and reiterated our demand that they drop their price north of the border so everyone there can access this treatment on the NHS. We’ll have to await the outcome of the Scottish Medicines Consortium review next week before we get an answer.

Finally, we pressed Pfizer on the failure to ensure the full publication of all trials relating to palbociclib and the lack of research to support approval for the use of palbociclib as a second line treatment (to be used once other medicines have been tried). They said they were working to address these concerns. But we think these are two examples of the problems with the current system beyond high prices… and more government action is needed as well.

Mr Nordkamp claimed that Pfizer are committed to ensuring people can access their medicines and said he was pleased to have been able to reach agreement on a compromise price. But we argued that palbociclib was just one medicine, and that the NHS faces huge challenges to pay for a whole range of extremely expensive treatments.

Just Treatment are going to keep fighting until we have a fair system of developing new medicines and an end to pharmaceutical companies ripping off the NHS. Sign up here to join us and together we can make sure everyone has access to the treatment they need.

Diarmaid McDonald