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Darzi Review: NICE to speed up drug reviews

By Nigel Praities

NICE's appraisal process for new drugs will be drastically accelerated under Government plans to reduce the current ‘postcode lottery' of access to innovative treatments.

The institute has often been criticised for taking too long to issue guidance on new treatments, with decisions on access to treatment often left to individual PCTs.

This will change under proposals in the NHS Next Stage Review to force NICE to issue the majority of its advice within a few months of a new drug being launched.

‘We will work with NICE to enable them to produce consistently fast guidance on significant new drugs. This will be achieved by making further improvements to the topic selection and appraisal process,' the report reads.

The report also says that patients' rights to treatments will be enshrined in a new NHS Constitution. Patients will have the legal right to any treatment approved by NICE for use on the NHS and PCTs will be legally bound to explain to patients the rationale behind not funding treatments in their areas.

Dr Brian Dunn, chair of GPC Northern Ireland and a member of the GPC prescribing sub-committee, said the changes would help GPs to push for more innovative treatments for their patients.

‘This situation currently is ridiculous. There should be equity. PCTs need a certain amount of flexibility, but the delays in NICE guidance was often seen as a way of saving money,' he said.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, admitted they had not always been able to offer timely advice to patients and NHS staff.

'We welcome the opportunity to work with the Department of Health on measures for speeding up the process from the selection of topics, through to publication of final guidance,' he said.

NHS drug changes: NICE to be given sweeping new powers NHS drug changes: NICE to be given sweeping new powers

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