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Editor's Blog 1st October 2008: Bankrolling the attacks on NICE

Good morning. Story of the day looks very much like The Independent's piece highlighting the pharmaceutical industry's bankrolling of many of the patient charities that have run prominent campaigns against NICE decisions about recommending new drugs for NHS availability.

While this is not a dramatic revelation to long-time policy observers, The Independent is to be congratulated for showing the political cojones to put it on the front page.

The article singles out the National Kidney Federation, the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, Beating Bowel Cancer, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Alzheimer's Society, noting that "all of these charities received sums of up to six figures from drug companies in 2007".

The pricing of new drugs is going to become a more significant issue in a recessionary financial environment. This is a difficult circle to square.

On the one hand, the pharmaceutical industry's R&D function is a significant employer and net economic contributor to the UK economy.

On the other, parts of the pharmaceutical industry remain slow to understand the changing nature of NHS management and resource use. The former business model of reps, volume sales and 'me too' drugs is unlikely to deliver the accustomed double-digit year-on-year growth.

Additionally, the pipeline of new potential blockbuster drugs is looking rather bare. The NHS remains regarded internationally as a key launch market.

There is certainly hope for progress. Some of the companies making new cancer drugs have already begun innovative risk-sharing financial arrangements with the NHS over the clinical effectiveness of their products.

The relationship between the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry should be a symbiotic one. But as ever, it behoves journalists, editors and citizens who hear special pleading for a particular group or condition to pay attention to who funds their organisation.