NICE support will be vital if consortia inherit rationing

GP consortia must not be forced to ration drugs without support from NICE, the GPC has warned.

In December, the DoH published plans to cut NICE’s role in choosing which new drugs are available on the NHS.

The proposals, set out in a consultation on ‘value-based’ pricing of medicines, could take effect from 2014. GPs have until 17 March to comment on the plans.

GPC prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Bill Beeby said there was ‘a lot of disquiet’ over consortia being forced to ration drugs.

He said the GPC would warn that NICE must continue to make strong recommendations about the cost-effectiveness of drugs, even if it did not make final decisions.

In September, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey warned that axing NICE’s role in rationing could cause ‘chaos’ if introduced just as practice boundaries are scrapped.

Under the plans, NICE would assess the value of medicines, and the DoH and drug manufacturers would then determine the price the NHS should pay. GP consortia would then decide whether a particular drug should be available to patients locally. The DoH said NICE would retain an important advisory role.

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