‘Spending on medicines should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost’- Kirsty Williams

March 12, 2013 12:37 PM

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, will lead a debate this week calling for the Welsh Labour Government to view spending on modern medicines as an investment, rather than just a cost and to extend the Health Technology Fund to support the development of new medicines.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have long argued for increased investment in modern medicines and treatments in Wales' NHS. In budget negotiations last year, the Welsh Liberal Democrats proposed their idea of an innovative treatments fund, which the Welsh Government agreed to take forward.

Whilst welcoming the introduction of the Health Technology Fund, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have lamented the lack of investment in new and innovative technologies. The party has also argued that it should also be used to fund medicines that are not routinely available on the NHS.

NHS Wales will save around £186 million between 2011-2015 on medicines, as branded pharmaceuticals come off patent. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are arguing that some of the money saved should be invested into the Health Technology Fund to support the assessment of new medicines.

Kirsty Williams AM commented:

"I welcome the introduction of the Health Technology Fund which is very much a Welsh Liberal Democrat policy. We called for this fund to offer patients better access to innovative treatments that were not routinely available on the Welsh NHS. Disappointingly, so far the Welsh Labour Government has lacked ambition or innovation and has simply used the fund to replace existing equipment.

"There is no hiding from the fact that we have a poor record in Wales of prescribing access to new treatments. Both Scotland and England have allocated funding to support the development of new medicines, but the Welsh Labour Government continues to ignore this which leaves patients in Wales facing a postcode lottery, often unable to access the medicines they need.

"The Welsh Labour Government has the wrong attitude towards investment in new medicines. It should view spending on modern medicines as an investment, rather than just a cost. It helps to reduce hospital admissions and improve quality of life, but also encourages investment in research and development and supports our economy, as well as enabling patients to return to work easing pressure off the family.

"The total spent on new medicines in primary care in 2011 accounted for only 0.5% of NHS Wales' expenditure. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will be using our debate to argue that percentage needs to be much higher.

"The Welsh Labour Government needs to work to create an environment that is receptive to innovation, by investing funding from the Health Technology Fund in more innovative technologies and extending it to include support for new medicines. Not only would this offer better treatments for Welsh patients, but it would enable us to compete effectively for clinical trials at a global level and make Wales' NHS a more attractive place for clinicians to work in."

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