NICE and GSK go head-to-head on drug pricing at Bupa Health Debate

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body that approves drugs for the NHS, will go head-to-head with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on the issue of drug pricing at the 2009 Bupa Health Debate on 25 March. The debate pits Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of NICE against Simon Jose, senior vice president of UK pharmaceuticals at GSK, at a time when conflict between the two organisations escalates over Tyverb, a GSK breast cancer drug. NICE is refusing to approve Tyverb because it is "not a cost-effective use of NHS resources", despite GSK's offer to fund the drug for the first 12 weeks of treatment.

This is just one example of 'life or death' decisions NICE takes over which drugs to approve for use on the NHS, as it battles to make best use of the limited NHS resources for new medicines. But pharmaceutical companies argue that the prices they charge for new drugs are a fair reflection of their multi-million pound investment in research and development.

Escalating drug prices is not just a UK problem. The World Health Organization reports that a third of the world's population cannot get the drugs they need because they are unable to afford them. Joining Professor Sir Michael Rawlins and Simon Jose to debate this international perspective will be Dr Mohga M Kamal-Yanni, HIV policy adviser at Oxfam and Professor Thomas Pogge, a leading academic from Yale University. The panellists will give their views on how new drugs and treatments can be priced more cheaply to widen their availability not only in the UK but also in the developing world. They will also discuss how more investment in new treatments for illnesses of the poor and marginalised can be encouraged. Does the answer lie in reforming the way pharmaceutical companies are rewarded? And what role do state health systems have to play?

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, Bupa's group medical director comments: "Bringing people together to discuss this issue is critical in finding a way to improve access to new drugs, a problem which affects millions of people around the world as drug prices continue to rise. The debate's panellists are experts in their fields and will be able to give the audience the
view from all perspectives."

Bupa has organised an annual Health Debate for over a decade, bringing together experts from across the industry to debate healthcare issues of importance to patients, clinicians, governments and society at large. The 2009 Bupa Health Debate will take place at 11.30am on 25 March.

To watch and take part in the debate free online, visit:


  • Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
  • Simon Jose, general manager and senior vice president, UK pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Dr Mohga M Kamal-Yanni, senior health and HIV policy adviser, Oxfam
  • Professor Thomas Pogge, professor of philosophy and international affairs, Yale University


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