The head of NICE has publicly defended his agency against more pharma criticism but admits that it can make changes to its processes that will allow more drugs onto the NHS.
In an open letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE’s chief executive, said he would ‘like to say yes’ to all new medicines but added that “they are not always sufficiently better than the treatments they would replace to justify their cost.”
He argued that some “have proved unsafe in general use” and NICE’s “cautious guidance has helped the NHS minimise their impact”.
He added: “So it isn’t just because of their cost that the NHS needs to look carefully at whether and how to use them.”
Sir Andrew said however, that the cost watchdog was open to ‘constructive dialogue’ over possible changes to its evaluations methods.
“Developing new drugs requires a significant investment and the companies who take the risks involved are entitled to make the return that will enable them to invest for the future,” he said.
“The NHS has to spread its increasingly constrained resources across everything we expect it to do for us. Reconciling these sometimes competing ambitions requires a constructive dialogue which we have always been open to and which we are actively pursuing now, as we introduce the latest set of changes to our evaluation methods.”
His letter was in response to a separate open letter to the UK newspaper from nine pharma firms published last week, which criticised NICE for not recommending a number of new treatments for NHS funding.
The companies also lambasted the government’s new drug pricing plans that will curb the growth of the annual drugs bill over the next five years.
But the new plan, which in all but name removes Value-Based Pricing and allows the 56-yeard old PPRS pricing scheme to remain, will see NICE take on a broader remit when appraising new medicines.
The body is currently debating how new value-based assessments - such as how a new drug may help a patient return to work or leave social care - may be incorporated into its current structure.
A consultation is currently out for how it should best do this, but is not expected to be implanted until next autumn.