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NICE reprieved by government U-turn

Published on 20/06/11 at 07:30am
Cost-effectiveness assessment body NICE

The government has performed an unexpected U-turn by allowing NICE to retain its powers to decide which new drugs the NHS will fund after 2014.

The Institute’s guidance was due to be downgraded to non-binding ‘advice’ under the government’s proposed value based pricing system, but it will now be allowed to keep its current role.

The dramatic U-turn was published as part of a series of changes the government will make in response to criticism about its radical reform of the NHS. 

NICE confirmed that one of these changes would be “the right to drugs and treatments recommended by NICE, which will be retained after the introduction of the proposed value-based pricing system for new drugs from January 2014”.

In his original plans health secretary Andrew Lansley said the Institute would continue to appraise new products, but would no longer make a recommendation on whether a drug should be paid for by the NHS.

Now however NICE will maintain this power after 2014, much to the pleasure of its leaders.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “We are pleased to see that NICE will continue to play a key role in helping to ensure that patients receive the best possible care on the NHS.

“We look forward to engaging with clinical commissioning groups and to supporting their work through the use of our guidelines, quality standards and commissioning guides.”

Sir Micheal Rawlins, chairman of NICE, told the Financial Times it was a sensible move.

“The industry wanted it because any negotiation about price involves a trade off between price and volume, and without a recommendation from NICE the industry would not have a clear idea about volumes,” he said.

The ABPI also welcomed the move, saying it values the role of NICE and wants it “to retain a strong role”.

The change was unexpected as the consultation on the Health and Social Care Bill did not covering either the retention of NICE or value based pricing.

This was debated in a separate consultation that ended in March, - something the government has yet to formally respond to.

Ben Adams

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