Safety worries may scupper NICE faster drugs access plans
Plans to speed up access to new drugs for NHS patients face being scuppered by costing and safety issues, GPs have warned.
They warn that proposals, unveiled by NICE and health minister Lord Darzi, could be hampered by the expense of introducing new drugs and the time it takes to demonstrate their safety.
Lord Darzi said the raft of measures, launched following pledges made in his Next Stage Review, would include a consultation on a new and faster system for referring drugs to NICE for appraisal.
He also vowed to set up a new appraisal committee to ensure NICE has the capacity to appraise new drugs and treatments as quickly as possible, and to increase investment in identifying new drugs for appraisal as early as possible.
The Government hopes the measures will allow PCTs to make more robust decisions about treatments they fund in cases where NICE has not issued guidance for a new drug.
Dr Peter Fellows, a GP in Lydney, Gloucestershire, and member of the GPC prescribing committee, said he agreed that patients should receive new treatments as soon as possible but warned that economic and safety restrictions may halt the plans.
He said: ‘We all want new drugs relatively early. The problem is they are expensive and the Government and NICE have resisted the distribution of new drugs on the basis of cost.'
‘The other problem is safety. It's all very well screaming for new drugs to be released early, but as soon as something goes wrong, they will be pointing fingers at the pharmaceutical company.'
Dr Brian Crichton, a GP in Solihull, said the move would be ‘entirely reasonable' as long as of the Government took heed of recent drug withdrawals, which occurred despite extensive clinical trials.
Health minister Lord Darzi said the plans would fulfil commitment made in his review. ‘The measures set out will help provide faster and fairer access to new drugs and treatments,' he said.