Plans to axe NICE's rationing role published

Details of controversial plans to axe NICE's role in determining whether medicines could be available on the NHS have been set out in a consultation.

The GPC has warned that the plans could cause ‘chaos’ if implemented at the same time as practice boundaries are scrapped.

The plans have also been criticised for having little international evidence to support them and for putting pressure on GPs to prescribe drugs regardless of cost and for risking introducing new inefficiencies into the NHS.

From 2014, the government wants to base the cost of medicines on the value they provide to patient and to introduce other ways to improve access to medicines.

The DoH's consultation, A new value-based approach to the pricing of branded medicine, sets out details of NICE's plans.

NICE will assess the value of medicines but not make final decisions. The government and pharmaceutical manufacturers will then decide on the price the NHS should pay for medicines.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley he wanted to ensure patients have access to the right medicines and treatment.

‘I do not want in future for the effect of the medicines pricing system to be the denial of effective and appropriate treatments to NHS patients,’ he said.

‘So we need to change the way drugs are priced and ensure value for money for the NHS. Doctors should be able to focus on what matters most – achieving the best health outcomes for their patient, not debating the relative value and price of a drug.’

The DoH said NICE would continue to have an important advisory role in the new system, including in assessing the clinical benefits of new medicines and giving authoritative evidenced-based advice to clinicians.

At present, manufacturers set their own prices for medicines, but their overall profits are capped as part of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS).

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