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NHS drug controls demanded

FURTHER restrictions on NHS prescribing and an end to the secrecy surrounding drug price control and profits of the pharmaceutical industry were called for yesterday, in a report from the all-party Commons Health Committee, which also criticised prescription charges as 'too high,' writes Liz Hunt.

The report proposes an overhaul of the present system of controlling the NHS drug budget which, the committee believes, favours drug companies over the health service and patients.

The central recommendation is the introduction of a national prescribing list of drugs that the NHS is prepared to pay for because they have proved their cost-effectiveness or therapeutic value. Scores of expensive drugs, no more effective than cheaper alternatives, would be excluded. All new drugs would be included but reviewed after five years.

The proposal was condemned by pharmaceutical companies who argued that few companies would launch drugs in Britain if there was a risk they would be withdrawn before research and development costs were recouped.