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A healthy philosophy: we need to talk about how we value our medicines

Published: 27 Mar 2017 in Society news

An exciting public event on 3 April will explore which medicines the UK wants to fund and why, and discuss how wider society might be able to really have its say on the country‘s drugs funding arrangements. Medicines cost the NHS nearly £17 billion in 2015/2016 – it’s the second biggest NHS expenditure after staff salaries – so it’s important for all of us that we get value for money from these billions of pounds.

Organised by the British Pharmacological Society as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, ‘A healthy philosophy: we need to talk about how we value our medicines’ will encourage the public to have their say on some of the big questions facing the NHS:

  • Should we spend more on medicines for the elderly, or the young?
  • Should cancer be a special case?
  • Should medicines for rare diseases be treated differently?
  • Medicines assessment agencies make these decisions, but aren’t we all responsible for the ethics that inform them?

Tackling these hot topics with the audience will be:

  • Vivienne Parry OBE, broadcaster
  • Professor Rachel Baker, Director of Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health & Professor of Health Economics, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Professor Ken Paterson, member of the British Pharmacological Society & former chair of the Scottish Medicines Consortium
  • Professor David Webb, President of the British Pharmacological Society & Christison Professor of Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh

Professor Webb comments:

Decisions about the cost and affordability of medicines determine the quality of life and life expectancy of millions of patients every day. I believe strongly that patients should be involved in decisions about their care, including decisions about how NHS funding is allocated to different medicines. The British Pharmacological Society is committed to bringing this issue to the fore by engaging the public on the important issue of how we value our medicines.

Professor Baker explains:

It is going to be fascinating to see what convinces our audience to fund or reject different medicines. I’m also intrigued to join members of the public on a journey across the different health economic decisions that the NHS is facing at the moment.

Professor Paterson adds:

“The underlying decision-making framework for funding medicines in this country is based on many untested assumptions about what the public value. It is not the exclusive role of clinical experts to set this framework, it is our collective responsibility as citizens and current or future patients. We need to come together for some difficult conversations.