I firmly believe that pharmaceutical drugs must be procured at a fair price. When companies exploit the NHS by charging higher prices, this money cannot then be spent elsewhere on patient care. At the same time, it is also important that pharmaceutical companies also get a fair deal and are able to continue investing in research for new drugs. Both private and public funding contributes to medical innovations.
Some of the responsibility for keeping drug prices manageable lies with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. However, controlling drug costs is, in general, a reserved matter for the UK Government, and I am therefore pleased to report that the UK Government is focussed on ensuring a good deal both for NHS England, for which it has direct responsibility, and for the NHS across the United Kingdom.
The UK Government has recently legislated to ensure that high prices of generic medicines can be better controlled, and in 2016 the Secretary of State for Health asked the Competition and Markets Authority to urgently examine whether pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the NHS by increasing their prices.
The UK Government also works with the pharmaceutical industry on various issues, including the pricing of new drugs, through mechanisms such as the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. This scheme is a voluntary agreement between the UK Government and pharmaceutical industry which controls the costs of branded medicines sold to the NHS.