NICE Loses Arbitrating Power Over Drugs

The NHS’ rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), has been stripped of its power to ban drugs on the Health Service. In addition, the existing limit on the cost of new drugs, which is at around £30,000 per year of extended high-quality life, is also due to be removed by 2014.

Many patients consider this development a victory. The thousands of patients who are denied life-extending drugs every year, despite their clinicians believing that they could help them, are ecstatic about the decision.

Many critics have blamed the ‘penny-pinching’ institute for the UK’s shocking record for cancer survival. Many patients have been denied innovative new drugs, which are freely available in other European countries, because they are not ‘cost effective’.

Cancer charities estimate that 20,000 patients a year die early because of NICE decisions. The NHS institute has also engaged in prominent disputes over denying Macugen and Lucentis, drugs to treat blindness, and three other drugs for dementia sufferers.

Following this new ruling, NICE will no longer arbitrate the availability of drugs. This will fall upon GPs instead. The value-based pricing regime, set to be introduced in 2014, will see Government officials negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to agree upon a price based on factors such as effectiveness and how much burden it reduces on carers.

There are concerns that this new system to lead to a postcode lottery, whereby patients in some areas are refused drugs that are available elsewhere.