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UK competition authority unlocks the door to more transformative combination therapies

In a world first, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released a statement which will support pharmaceutical companies working together on access to clinically important combination therapies.

The CMA statement says, it “will not prioritise investigations under the Competition Act 1998 (the ‘CA98’) into specific forms of engagement between medicine manufacturers which are carried out in good faith and aimed at making a combination therapy available to NHS patients in the UK, where certain market features are present and particular conditions are met”.

The statement is an international first from any competition authority taking action to support NHS patient access to clinically important combination therapies.

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, ABPI said: “This statement results from longstanding work by the ABPI, NICE and NHS England engaging with the CMA. It is a major step forward for the many patients who need and deserve access to these ground-breaking therapies. It is a world-first and a great example of the UK setting the standard for other health systems faced with similar challenges. The ABPI will continue to work with NICE and NHS England on further steps to support access to combination therapies.”

A combination therapy combines two or more individual medicines into a single treatment regimen. Combination therapies can improve patient outcomes by targeting different disease pathways in a synergistic way. They can also reduce disease resistance to medicines which means they may work for longer. For example, in reducing cancer tumour growth or preventing the spread of cancer around the body.

Components of combination therapies may belong to the same pharmaceutical company or different companies. When components belong to different companies, it can sometimes lead to challenges in getting positive reimbursement decisions for these therapies.

These challenges are complex and multi-faceted, but a key one is that the perceived risk of potentially breaching competition law has deterred companies from engaging with each other. The CMA’s statement provides reassurance to companies on how they can appropriately engage with each other if required to secure reimbursement for a combination therapy.

The ABPI will continue to work with NICE and NHSE to ensure their processes are also supporting patient access to these treatments.
Go to the ABPI website for more information on the challenges of bringing combination therapies to patients.

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Last modified: 17 November 2023

Last reviewed: 17 November 2023

The ABPI exists to make the UK the best place in the world to research, develop and use new medicines. We represent companies of all sizes who invest in discovering the medicines of the future. 

Our members supply cutting edge treatments that improve and save the lives of millions of people. We work in partnership with Government and the NHS so patients can get new treatments faster and the NHS can plan how much it spends on medicines. Every day, we partner with organisations in the life sciences community and beyond to transform lives across the UK.