Vertex CEO, CCO head for U.K. hearing on Orkambi pricing standoff

Vertex Pharma
Vertex executives will attend U.K. parliament hearing on Thursday over cystic fibrosis drugs and pricing. (Vertex Pharma)

Years into a standoff between Vertex Pharmaceuticals and NHS England over cystic fibrosis drug prices, the company's top brass is set to participate in a parliamentary hearing focused on pricing negotiations.

Vertex CEO Jeffrey Leiden and Vertex CCO Stuart Arbuckle, plus officials with NHS England, the NHS' National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and patient groups, will attend a Thursday hearing on Orkambi, according to a posting on the U.K. Parliament’s website. The hearing will “cover the current impasse in negotiations and wider issues surrounding precision medicines,” another post says.

The U.K. Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee kicked off an inquiry into the “provision and pricing of Orkambi” and other CF drugs from Vertex after it became apparent the sides wouldn't reach a deal. It’s hoping to resolve a years-long dispute over the drugs' value.

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Vertex and U.K. officials have been negotiating over Orkambi's price for years, and despite the drug's EU approval in 2015, it’s still not available for patients in the country. As part of its “largest ever” commitment, NHS last summer offered £500 million over 5 years and £1 billion over 10 years for access to Orkambi and other CF medications.

The drugmaker rejected the offer, arguing that it "does not take into account the vast time and resources invested” to develop the drugs. An executive added that it could hamper the company's ability to one day find a cure for the disease. 

RELATED: Vertex says it's glad England made another offer for CF drugs, but it'll have to do better 

Since that proposal fell through, the sides seem to have come to a standstill. In November, members of Parliament threatened to release pricing info on the meds if the sides couldn't reach a deal. Still, even as the calendar has turned to March, the parties don’t appear to be nearing an agreement.

Last July, Leiden asked U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to get involved. In a letter, he said the government's stance on drug pricing devalues patients and threatens the country’s biopharma ecosystem. He said Vertex may reconsider its commitment in the country due to the way the U.K. values drugs. 

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