HC Deb 03 July 1967 vol 749 cc1251-2
11. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Health if he will give the total of his bulk purchases of drugs for the National Health Service under the provisions of Sections 41 and 46 of the Patents Act in each of the last five years.

Mr. K. Robinson

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Pavitt

Can the Minister state whether or not the amount has decreased over the five years and, if it has, can he give an assurance that he will use both Sections of the Patents Act to bring down the high cost of drugs supplied to the National Health Service, not only to hospitals but also to general practitioners?

Mr. Robinson

The amounts have decreased. We have operated only Section 46 in the past. The figures have decreased over the four years in which purchases are made. There were no contracts under Section 46 in 1966, because last year we negotiated price reductions for those drugs which had been Section 46 purchases, which resulted in a net saving to the National Health Service of about £2 million a year.

Mr. Braine

Will the Minister confirm that the voluntary price reduction system is working fairly well? In the light of experience, does not he agree that instead of using Sections 41 and 46 it would be much better, where necessary, to use Sections 32 and 40, in respect of which the matter is governed by a judicial decision?

Mr. Robinson

No, Sir. Section 46 is a very valuable reserve power for the Minister to have. Were it necessary I would not hesitate to use it. As the hon. Member knows, all these matters are before the Sainsbury Committee, whose report is expected before long.

Following are the figures:

Central contracts under the provisions of Section 46 of the Patents Act, 1949, were made as follows:—

1962 £341,000
1963 £200,200
1964 £158,400
1965 £102,800
1966 Nil.

There have been no central contracts for the Service for drugs supplied by firms granted compulsory licences under Section 41 of the Patents Act, 1949.