Cystic fibrosis drug to be free on NHS in 30 days after US firm bows to pressure

Cystic fibrosis drug to be free on NHS in 30 days after US firm bows to pressure

A US drug company has bowed to pressure and agreed to supply a life-changing medicine on the NHS.

Vertex was slammed by Jeremy Corbyn in his conference speech for refusing to drop its price for the cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi.

The Labour leader vowed to change the way drugs were patented to stop big pharma firms exploiting their monopoly.

Vertex has now struck a deal with NHS England which will help an estimated 5,000 patients.

It means patients who need Orkambi will have “full access” to it free of charge within 30 days, with no cap on patient numbers.

It was previously set to cost the NHS £104,000 a year per patient. Officials refused to say how much the deal will cost due to commercial confidentiality.


Patients who need Orkambi will have “full access” to it free of charge within 30 days

The Mirror highlighted the case of cystic fibrosis suffered Luis Walker, nine, whose life would be transformed by the treatment.

He wrote to Jeremy Corbyn: “I have Cystic Fibrosis. I need Orkambi, lots of other people do too. I have written to Theresa May and Vertex. It didn’t help. Please would you be the one to help me.”

Mr Corbyn said today: “This is life changing for everyone with cystic fibrosis in our country, they’ve waited years for this drug.

“A victory for all the campaigners who have taken on big pharmaceutical companies’ greed and government inaction. When we stand together and take on the powerful, we win.”

Those eligible for Orkambi will be those aged two or older who have two copies of the F508del mutation in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene.

The drug Symkevi will also be available and access to Kalydeco will be expanded for eligible patients aged 12 or older under today’s deal.

Although the deal is for England, the NHS in Wales and Northern Ireland must now be offered similar terms if their health chiefs demand them.

The deal was struck after Vertex agreed to submit its drugs for appraisal by the regulator NICE up to September 2021. But in return the cost to taxpayers will remain confidential.

Nine-year-old Luis Walker wrote this letter to Jeremy Corbyn

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Given the time it has taken for the company to reach this agreement, there must be no further delay. So I expect NHS clinicians should be able to start offering these treatments within 30 days from today.

“We have only been able to finalise this negotiation because the company has now agreed confidential commercial terms that constitute good value for British taxpayers. As a result, NICE has also been able to support the agreement.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the deal was “wonderful news”.

He added: “We’ve agreed a deal to provide Orkambi and other lifesaving Cystic Fibrosis drugs on the NHS.

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“The deal is great value for money for the NHS, and crucially, will improve thousands of lives.

“This deal – on the back of several others this summer – shows why we get some of the best value drugs in the world, and is another reason to be so proud of our NHS.”

Ludovic Fenaux, Senior Vice President of Vertex International, said: “Today is a significant day for the cystic fibrosis community in England.

“This important agreement, reached in collaboration and partnership with NHS England and NICE, will allow more than 5,000 eligible cystic fibrosis patients in England to have access to CFTR modulators to treat the underlying cause of their disease.”

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