NICE 'too quick' to block drugs

NICE too readily blocks access to new drugs and lacks research expertise needed to support value-based pricing, health economists have argued.

A report by the University of York’s Centre for Health Economics (CHE) said NICE underuses the option of backing a drug’s use ‘only in research’.

NICE currently has at least four options when assessing new technologies: reject, approve, approve only in research and approve with research. But NICE rarely recommends approval only in research or with research, the CHE said.

When value-based pricing is introduced, restricted approvals will be important as they broaden options for negotiation alongside cost-effectiveness assessments, the report argued.

In addition, NICE does not currently have the expertise to determine what types of research are needed to address questions about the cost-effectiveness of drugs, the CHE said.

The University of York team argue that valuable information on cost-effectiveness may not be unavailable when a drug is first launched.

Their paper sets out ways in which the benefits of waiting for new research findings can be balanced against the harm caused by delaying access to a new medicine.

The research was commissioned by NICE and funded by the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research and the Medical Research Council.

Professor Carole Longson, director of NICE’s centre for health technology evaluation, said NICE would be considering the findings carefully. ‘We are continually looking at ways we can improve our ap-praisal processes,’ she said

‘We will, of course, need to wait until the Government has finalised its ideas for how VBP will work before we can confirm our own plans, but we feel our current processes are well-placed for the transition to value-based pricing.’

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