Greens press Scottish government on a Crown use licence for pertuzumab

On Thursday morning (31/5/18) MSP Alison Johnstone raised Just Treatment’s campaign for a Crown use licence on pertuzumab in the Scottish parliament, asking the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison MSP:

WTF is a Crown use licence?

“To ask the Scottish government what powers it has to enact a Crown use licence to allow the production of biosimilar versions of the breast cancer treatment Perjeta [pertuzumab] and drugs for other conditions.”

The Scottish Health Secretary’s reply echoed a recent written response to our campaign;  once again she cited time and expense as the rationale for not pursuing a Crown use licence. But this important legal tool, designed to safeguard public health, can be very effective and it is disappointing the government is ruling out using an important weapon in the fight for fairly priced medicines.

It is clear that there is significant bargaining power to be gained from initiating a process to challenge high drug prices, even if it will not immediately result in a more affordable version being made available for Scottish patients. This was pointed out by Alison Johnstone in her follow up question, when she highlighted: 

“...we shouldn’t rule out any legal mechanism or procurement possibility that would help these patients. In Italy, just the prospect of a compulsory licence being enacted helped reduce the price of a hepatitis C medicine...”

See the full discussion here:

It’s great news that Alison Johnstone and the Scottish Greens are supporting Just Treatment’s pertuzumab campaign. Please do sign our petition to increase pressure on the government to issue a Crown use licence for pertuzumab.

Here’s what it’s all about and why it matters.

A Crown use licence is a legal tool which the Scottish government can use to overturn a company’s monopoly on a new drug. The problem is that pharmaceutical companies are abusing this agreement by charging exorbitant prices that the NHS simply cannot afford. 

The time and public expense that has already been wasted because companies like Roche insist on charging such high prices is unacceptable. Pertuzumab has been on the market since July 2015 and has been rejected for use in Scotland three times because of a lack of cost-effectiveness. At a price of £43,908 per patient per year it is easy to see the difficult position faced by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

Breast cancer patients in Scotland have already waited nearly three years for this drug. How much longer will they be made to hold on? 

In terms of the time it would take to bring a generic version of the drug to market, the government is making assumptions about the willingness of bio-generic manufacturers to gain regulatory approval for the drug. They could easily test this assumption by indicating their willingness to explore the feasibility of a Crown use licence, and welcoming expressions of interest from potential manufacturers.

The cost to NHS Scotland over 10 years if they were to buy pertuzumab at list price (Roche’s published price) would likely exceed £220m. A bio-generic version of the drug under a Crown use licence could save the NHS over £177m over this period. 

In countries such as Italy, the threat of a compulsory licence (equivalent to the UK’s Crown use licence) was enough to bring down the manufacturer’s price. Can the Scottish government afford to ignore this option? The prices of new drugs continue increasing, and if we do not take a stand against the pharmaceutical industry this problem will only get worse - and it will be the patients who suffer. With such a powerful policy tool in their toolbox, the Scottish government surely cannot afford the time and expense of failing to use it. 

Sign the petition here:

Elizabeth Baines