A consortium of major pharmaceutical countries is taking the NHS to court in order to prevent what it considers to be unfair limitations on drug pricing.
This latest legal action follows on the back of a government initiative put in place in April.
The action was intended to limit funding for medicines to those that cost the NHS less than £20 million annually during the first three years of utilisation.
However, the pharmaceutical industry believes that this is unduly limiting, and that it could prevent patients from gaining access to state of the art treatments.
He also argued that drugs for particularly rare diseases are also disproportionately targeted by the new approach.
This could affect children unduly seriously, with these medicines now being subjected to a maximum cost threshold for the first time in NHS history.
In response to this policy, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has made it known that it has reluctantly applied for a judicial review of this decision.
NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence were collaboratively involved with the new initiative.
Earlier this year, Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, had indicated that the proposals are intended to “address the challenge of providing faster access to innovative, cost-effective treatments alongside the need to safeguard the future financial sustainability of the NHS”.
But the pharmaceutical industry is, perhaps unsurprisingly, strongly opposed to the new approach.
Richard Torbett, executive director at the trade body taking the legal action, suggested that the policy of NHS in in England in this area ultimately makes little sense.
“These are medicines for which Nice has given the stamp of approval of cost effectiveness. It fundamentally crosses a line to not grant mandatory funding for Nice-approved medicines.”
GlaxoSmithKline has also publicly indicated its opposition to the initiative, asserting that “industry and government need to work together to improve adoption of new medicines in the UK.”
While many will assert that the pharmaceutical companies involved are simply acting in self interest, the consortium has also acquired support from some other authoritative and independent bodies.
The Health Foundation charity essentially concurs with the position of those involved with the court action, and Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the charity, believes that the new approach amounts to “overt rationing on affordability grounds”.
There is also concern that the system will have a negative impact on the life sciences industry, which is worth £60 billion annually to the British economy.
While this would be worrying in any climate, a significant contraction is already predicted in life sciences once Brexit is enacted.