Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access (VPAS) delivers value for money to taxpayer and saves NHS billions, facilitating patient access to new lifesaving treatments and medicines, and supporting UK life sciences sector

The NHS will save £7 billion by the end of 2023 thanks to a five-year agreement with the pharmaceutical industry, which ensures the NHS can continue to be one of the fastest health systems in the world to roll out innovative medicines.

VPAS, the Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access, was introduced in 2019 to keep the branded medicine bill affordable for the NHS by capping the growth of sales, while improving patient access to medicines by getting new medicines into use more quickly, and supporting our life sciences sector.

Thanks to the scheme, thousands of NHS patients have benefitted from dozens of new treatments for conditions ranging from the most common cancers, to cutting edge gene therapy for ultra-rare disorders.

Through VPAS, NHS England has:

  • Delivered a world-leading rollout of cystic fibrosis triple therapy, which is crucial as the prevalence of cystic fibrosis in the UK is the second highest in Europe and third globally
  • Secured first-in-Europe patient access for a number of new drugs, including a revolutionary lung cancer drug – sotorasib – and life-extending prostate cancer drug, darolutamide
  • Negotiated commercial agreements to provide three new treatments, in less than three years, for children and adults with spinal muscular atrophy – the leading genetic cause of infant mortality
  • Struck a series of national deals for HIV treatments and preventative drugs that will support England to meet an ambition to become the first country to end HIV transmissions before 2030

Health Minister, Will Quince, said:

Not only has VPAS delivered value for money for the taxpayer and saved the NHS billions of pounds, it has also saved people’s lives by supporting cancer patients and others with life-threatening conditions to have rapid access to new, life-saving and life-extending treatments.

The scheme is vitally important as it keeps the branded medicine bill affordable for the NHS, and ensures the UK life sciences industry can earn the money it needs to fund research and development into new and improved medicine.

The NHS buys medicines from pharmaceutical companies and is internationally competitive in the speed in adopting innovative medicines. Industry data shows there are five treatments available in England for every four in Europe, as well as almost a third more cancer drugs.

VPAS has also helped NHS England to:

  • Continue progress that keeps England on track to become the first country to eliminate Hepatitis C ahead of the World Health Organisation’s 2030 goal
  • Fast-track more than 100 cancer drugs to NHS patients via the Cancer Drugs Fund
  • Provide international leadership in the delivery of a subscription-style payment model for antibiotics to incentivise new development and help tackle antimicrobial resistance

Chief Negotiations Advisor to the Department of Health and Social Care, Sir Hugh Taylor, said:

The future VPAS scheme must continue to benefit the NHS and give its patients access to the best medicines, while supporting our life sciences sector.

I’m looking forward to parties getting round the table to reach an agreement which not only benefits the NHS but will also encourage the pharmaceutical sector to continue investing in the UK.

Negotiations for the successor to the current VPAS are expected to start in the spring, with Sir Hugh Taylor appointed by the government to oversee the negotiations. The successor scheme will come into force on 1st January 2024.

NHS England’s Director for Commercial Medicines Negotiation, Rob Kettell, said:

The NHS has a track-record of using its commercial capabilities to secure world-leading access to life-changing new treatments for patients at the best value for the taxpayer, with recent industry data placing the UK in the top three fastest G20 countries to roll-out new medicines.

This scheme has had a major impact for thousands of patients and their families, and ahead of negotiations for a new branded medicines agreement, the NHS is committed to working with government and industry to ensure that patients’ needs are at the forefront of these discussions.

Published 24 April 2023