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Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2018

13. What recent progress has been made in negotiations between NHS England and Vertex Pharmaceuticals on making Orkambi available on the NHS for people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. (907221)

It was disappointing that in July and August, Vertex, the manufacturer of Orkambi, rejected the final offer made by NHS England, as well as rejecting the opportunity for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence—NICE—to appraise its new medicines, as is required for all companies seeking routine NHS funding for their products. Vertex must re-engage with NICE and NHS England, and I am encouraged that it attended a meeting with NICE on 4 October to discuss next steps.

As the Minister knows, Orkambi is available for cystic fibrosis sufferers in Ireland, Greece, Denmark and a host of other countries around the world, so when will it be available for cystic fibrosis sufferers in this country?

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a keen interest in this subject and that he campaigns assiduously on behalf of his constituents in this regard. He is right to suggest that Ministers are keeping a very close eye on these negotiations, and we urge Vertex to consider NHS England’s fair and final offer. However, it is absolutely right that we have a system—introduced by the Labour party—in which experts, not politicians, determine the fair price for a drug, based on robust evidence.

I almost thought you had forgotten about me, Mr Speaker.

Last month, speaking on this very subject, the Secretary of State said that he would not let pharmaceutical companies hold the NHS to ransom, but the 5,200 patients who could benefit from Orkambi are left suffering while this war of words continues. What does the Secretary of State have to say, through his Minister, to those patients who are awaiting a resolution to this stalemate?

The hon. Lady makes a correct point, and we are very keen that patients receive this drug. I understand her ire, but perhaps it should be directed at Vertex, the manufacturer. The offer of £500 million over five years for the size of the eligible population is the largest-ever commitment of its kind in the 70-year history of the NHS, and it would guarantee immediate and expanded access to Orkambi and to other drugs.