NICE price pressure will reduce drug availability

Commercial pressures being put on drug companies by NICE are reducing the availability of drugs for UK patients, experts fear.

NICE price pressure will reduce drug availability
NICE price pressure will reduce drug availability

The criticism follows a draft technology appraisal for bortezomib (Velcade) for multiple myeloma, which was published last week.

The NICE appraisal recommends that, if patients show minimal or no response, they should be taken off the drug and manufacturer Janssen Cilag should refund the costs.

If patients show a complete or partial response, the NHS will foot the bill, providing the recommendation is included in the final guidance due in October.

A single course of bortezomib will cost an average of £18,000 per patient.

According to NICE, this is a way for NHS patients to try expensive new drugs and see if they work for them.

But GPC prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Peter Fellows branded the scheme 'crazy'.

'All that will happen is that the drug will be priced to pay for the pharmaceutical company's research and development,' he said.

Pressure put on pharmaceutical companies by NICE and the push for GPs to prescribe generic versions of medicines where possible were likely to lead to a rise in individual drug costs, explained Dr Fellows. In turn, NHS patients are even less likely to receive them.

'Already we are seeing that new drugs are cheaper in Europe than they are in this country,' he added.

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