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NHS England’s plan to eliminate Hepatitis C in England by 2025 is on track after all aspects of a High Court challenge by pharmaceutical company AbbVie were dismissed.
The NHS’s single largest medicines procurement, a deal worth almost £1 billion over five years, was launched in April last year but contract start dates had to be delayed by six months after legal action by AbbVie.
The High Court today handed down the judgment decisively backing NHS England’s plans to eliminate Hepatitis C.
In the ruling, the judge rejected all challenges brought by AbbVie against NHS England’s smart procurement for the supply of curative, direct acting antiviral treatments and industry backed projects to find and treat people with the virus as quickly as possible.
John Stewart, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, said: “Court cases such as this are a waste of NHS resources and taxpayers’ money, in this case resulting in an unavoidable delay in our efforts to tackle the threat of Hepatitis C, which disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society.
“We remain committed to driving best value to help eliminate Hepatitis C in England by 2025 or sooner, and with this court case behind us we can now get on with the job.”
Hepatitis C is a cancer-causing infectious disease, spread by contact with an infected person’s blood.
In recent years, Public Health England estimated that around 160,000 people are infected with Hepatitis C in England, although around half are unaware of their infection.
The disease, which can go undetected until the liver becomes damaged, can now be successfully cured in weeks using new oral tablets.
In 2015, NHS England established 22 Operational Delivery Networks (ODNs) to support treatment and testing efforts across the country and over 32,000 patients have been treated so far with around 95% being cured of the disease. NHS England plans to eliminate Hepatitis C in England by 2025, five years earlier than World Health Organisation goals.
The Hepatitis C procurement is the latest in a series of ‘smart deals’ the NHS has delivered to drive value for the taxpayer and benefits for patients.
These include a £300 million saving after negotiating deals with five manufacturers on low cost versions of the health service’s most costly drug, adalimumab; striking the first full access deal in Europe for CAR-T therapy which can potentially cure some children and adults with blood cancers where other treatments have failed; and reaching a deal to make the life-extending lung cancer drug pembrolizumab, available for routine use on the NHS.