This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

Most patient groups contributing to NICE 'have financial interests'

Nearly three quarters of patient organisations that contribute to NICE decisions have taken funding from manufacturers of a relevant product, a new study has claimed.

Researchers looked at the financial interests of patient groups who contributed to NICE decisions and found 72% took funding from manufacturers of a relevant product in the same year or year before they contributed to a NICE appraisal.

The research team called on NICE to ‘review its disclosure policy’, after it found the body was ‘aware of less than a quarter’ of the potential conflicts.

NICE said it had already decided to review this policy, but will consider the new research as part of this.

The study, published in the BMJ, looked at 41 NICE technology appraisals – which provide recommendations on the use of new and existing medicines and treatments within the NHS - published in 2015 and 2016.

They included 53 patient organisations, with 117 separate occasions in which a patient organisation contributed to the appraisal of a technology.

The researchers said: ‘38/53 (72%) patient organisations had accepted funding from the manufacturer(s) of a technology or a competitor product in the same year that they had contributed to the appraisal of that technology or the previous year.

‘Specific interests were present on 92/117 (79%) occasions that patient organisations contributed to appraisals in 2015 and 2016.’

‘NICE’s decision-making committees were aware of less than a quarter of specific interests (30/144; 21%). For nearly two thirds of the specific interests not known to committees (71/114; 62%), disclosure by patient organisations was not required by NICE’s policy,’ they added.

The authors concluded that ‘financial interests are highly prevalent among patient organisations contributing to NICE decisions’, and called for ‘NICE to review its disclosure policy to ensure that decision making committees are aware of all relevant interests’.

Hull GP and BMA GP Committee clinical and prescribing policy group member Dr Zoe Norris said: ‘The authors of this paper sum up exactly why NICE need to review its policies. I would expect most doctors and patients will be shocked to discover the degree of funding that is being received, over the same time period that recommendations are then being made.'

She continued: ‘The profession remains sceptical about NICE recommendations, whilst being told we must justify our rationale if we deviate from them.

‘I would expect NICE to be crystal clear over external influence to try and improve the acceptability of its recommendations. It is ethically the right thing to do.’

This comes after GPs were told they will be asked which clinical guidelines they followed, when undergoing investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) due to patient complaints.

NICE told Pulse it had already decided to review its disclosure policy, prior to the research being published, but said it would consider the findings as part of this review.

NICE deputy chief executive and health and social care director Gill Leng said: ‘We aim to maintain a high standard of integrity in the way we conduct our work.

‘Ensuring that organisations and individuals declare potential conflicts of interests, in accordance with our policies is central to how we develop guidance and is essential in maintaining public and professional confidence in our work. This study is an important contribution in making sure that we achieve this aim.’

Last year, a Pulse investigation revealed how pharmaceutical companies work with and fund charities, which campaign on and contribute to NICE decisions

Readers' comments (9)

  • The word NICE, derived from Latin nescius meaning ‘ignorant’, began life in the fourteenth century as a term for ‘foolish’ or ‘silly’. From there it embraced many a negative quality, including wantonness, extravagance, and ostentation, as well as cowardice and sloth. In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve. It was society’s admiration of such qualities in the eighteenth century that brought on the more positively charged meanings of ‘nice’ that had been vying for a place for much of the word’s history, and the values of respectability and virtue began to take over. Such positive associations remain today, when the main meaning of ‘nice’ is ‘pleasant’ (if with a hint of damning with faint praise; it may yet turn full circle).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Bob Hodges

    "Most patient groups contributing to NICE 'have financial interests'"

    However, a slightly higher proportion of Popes have been Catholic.

    Dear Lord, please protect us from the rent-a-gob idiots at 'The Patients Association'.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm surprised this has only recently been noticed as it's being going on for years. What is really worrying (and bordering on corruption) is industries links to the regulators. Doctors can be dragged through disciplinary processes if we don't follow the rules that are heavily influenced by financial interests.

    The Patients Association's corporate links are listed here:

    On the same page is a link with an instruction of how to make a complaint! The CQC logo also appears on their home page.

    You really couldn't make this up!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • One really wonders at the quality of leadership. How was this not known?
    This is a major scandal. Time for some humility for once from NICE and a complete reveal of all their tainted guidelines.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A lady of fine repute has recently been promoted from NICE to 'Chief Inspector of GP' at the CQC (and I didn't make that-up).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • David Banner

    And yet if a GP accepts a free pen from a drug rep.......heaven forfend .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I thought being a patient especially in a patient organisation participating in NICE means you are a faultless saint? Silly me.
    I wonder if they got more than the cost of a pen or a sticky pad?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Took Early Retirement

    Bob Hodges for Pope!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • NICE please publish details of people involved and their wasted interest.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say