UK’s NICE Dismisses Drug Delay Statements

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has not been requested to alter the basis of their assessments “simply to save money,” NICE’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, has stated.

Sir Andrew Dillon was replying to media reports from earlier this week, which claimed that the UK government is deferring the introduction of new cancer drugs into the NHS to save money.  According to GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty, a delay in the approval of pioneering new drugs is being seen across Europe as governments introduce austerity methods to handle growing cost pressures.

Witty commented that “cancer in the UK is a good example where we’re seeing oncology drugs being systematically delayed from introduction and reimbursement.”

Professor Jonathan Waxman, of Imperial College London, who started the Prostate Cancer Charity and assisted in creating an all-party parliamentary group to improve cancer treatment, noted that “in my particular area of specialisation, which is prostate cancer, we have had two new drugs… which offer real benefits for patients.”  “I would argue that they have been disallowed – banned – by NICE on the basis of an assessment which is not a true financial costing of the worth of the drugs,” Waxman added.

However, Sir Andrew Dillon points out that NICE’s role is to create evidence-based advice on treatments and care in the NHS, and to make a calculation of whether the added value  justifies the charge the NHS is being asked to pay.

The guidance, which NICE creates on which new treatment to endorse for the NHS, is made by independent advisory committees using proof from clinical experts, patients and carers.  NICE and the Department of Health – who decide what drugs need to be considered – have decreased the length of time it takes to provide evidence to the NHS, once a drug is approved for use, says the Institute.

In 2002, there was an average gap of over four years between a treatment being given authorisation and NICE producing their initial draft guidance, but in 2010-11, the average time was reduced to just four months, NICE noted.

NICE has also approved the majority of drugs it has considered for availability on the NHS, with over 80% of NICE technology appraisals being positive since the institute began.

NICE also highlights the initiatives which have been introduced by the government to improve innovation in the NHS, including its recent report on how innovation could be improved in healthcare.  NICE’s “independent advisory committees specifically look for innovation in new drugs, but it is of course the case that being ‘new’ is not enough,” says Sir Andrew Dillon.

“A new drug has to offer more to patients than existing treatments to justify its additional cost, and we work hard to help companies understand the need to make the case for their new drugs, using the evidence,” he added.

NICE and drug companies, including GSK, have come a long way in recent years implementing systems and creating a dialogue, to enable “NICE to get the best possible understanding of the value that new treatments can bring, and for drug companies to understand the need for health systems like the NHS, and indeed ones around the world, to critically evaluate new treatments that are becoming available and to make sure they are making the right choices for patients,” said Dillon.


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