Azara Blog: Government wants to speed up drug approval by NICE

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Date published: 2008/06/29

The BBC says:

The government is to set out plans to speed up approval of drugs used in the National Health Service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) can take up to two years to make a decision but ministers want this cut to six months.

Patients will have their legal rights to drugs recommended by NICE laid out in the planned NHS constitution.

Health trusts will no longer be able to refuse drugs on cost grounds alone.

The draft version of the constitution is expected to set out what patients and staff are entitled to from the NHS.

This includes "fundamental principles" such as universal access to healthcare, and to drugs and treatments approved by NICE.

This seems reasonable enough. However it depends what they mean by "trusts will no longer be able to refuse drugs on cost grounds alone". Obviously every trust has a budget, and has to live within that budget. If some expensive drug has to be paid for, then less of some other treatment will be available. On the other hand it should be up to NICE and not the individual health trusts what drugs should and should not be paid for by the NHS. But the most unfortunate aspect of this announcement is that the real aim of the government is probably not to improve the performance of the NHS but rather just to avoid bad media coverage when some cancer patient or other complains that some drug or other is not available on the NHS. This is not the way to run a health service.

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