Commercial Medicines Unit

The Commercial Medicines Unit (CMU) is part of the Medicine, Pharmacy and Industry Group of the Department of Health. The focus of the work of the CMU is on strategic supply management and procurement of medicines for use in secondary care. The team works in partnership with hospital pharmaceutical procurement colleagues across the NHS in England. This includes leading a selective competitive tendering work plan for the implementation of hospital framework contracts. Objectives are to ensure a stable supply of critical drugs and to maintain, develop and realise the benefits of competition. Specific procurement programmes deliver framework agreements for the NHS to call off requirements targeted at generic, branded and specialised medicines. CMU works collaboratively with both NHS pharmacists and suppliers in the collation and analysis of secondary care medicines spend on behalf of both the Department of Health and the NHS via its information systems. Members of the category teams have specialist market knowledge to assist in managing the contracting process for medicines in England and to provide support for projects on behalf of the Department of Health. Support is available for procurement in the following areas:

  • homecare medicines
  • branded medicines
  • generic medicines
  • dose banding
  • blood products
  • medical gases
  • nutrition / enteral products
  • childhood and other vaccines (UK wide)
  • pharmaceutical countermeasures
  • delivery of procurement savings
  • securing the benefits of the transition from branded to off patent medicines
  • information and analysis of expenditure

Contact CMU (PDF, 51.5KB)

Management of the National Generics Programme (formerly SCEP) is supported and, together with eBusiness, is complementary to those services above.

Specialist skills and experience are engaged via strategic groups notably:

National Pharmaceutical Supply Group (NPSG)
Pharmaceutical Market Supply Group (PMSG)
National Homecare Medicines Committee (NHMC)

A strategic framework to source pharmaceuticals for the NHS in England

NHS hospitals in England currently spend around £3.6 billion annually on pharmaceuticals. It is estimated that around £3.0 billion of the total is spent on branded pharmaceuticals – the remainder covers generic drugs and pharmaceutical related products such as gases, blood products, renal and enteral feeds. In view of the importance of this product group, both in terms of expenditure and patient care, it is vital that procurement across the NHS delivers best value. It is also a factor that valuable resources should be deployed to ensure that maximum benefit is exploited and replication of effort avoided. A strategic framework (PDF, 96KB) has been developed.  It aims to set out the rationale for a cohesive national procurement strategy, taking into account the need to:

  • develop a cohesive approach between national and local activity
  • manage the relationship between branded and generic pharmaceuticals
  • clarify the respective roles of national pharmacy groups, local pharmacy purchasing groups, collaborative procurement hubs/supply confederations and CMU.

The paper is currently being updated through structured discussion between CMU, hospital pharmacists and newly emerging organisations such as CSUs.  This will enable it to reflect  organisational changes in the NHS and strengthen its inclusion of branded medicines.

The revised strategy will be published on the website when it is available.