On the Agenda - Drugs boost for terminal illnesses

IN A NUTSHELL

Expensive drugs that prolong the lives of terminally ill patients stand a better chance of being approved on the NHS under new rules. The guidance put out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) means that the threshold at which the drugs are deemed cost-effective will be moved.

HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?

NICE issued fresh guidance to the medical committees that assess cost-effectiveness of treatments, instructing them to be more liberal in their appraisal of drugs for people with incurable diseases. But this will only be in certain circumstances. The announcement follows a five-week public consultation and will come into effect in time for the January meetings of NICE advisory committees.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

During 2008 NICE repeatedly came under fire for its decisions to restrict the access of some drugs to patients. Its decision to reject four drugs that can treat advanced kidney cancer received widespread criticism across the media. This was followed by the results of a consultation on its drug approval process, which saw the process branded 'chaotic', 'flawed and irrational' by patient groups.

MEDIA COVERAGE

The story has been covered by The Independent, The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail, as well as pharma marketing title Pharma Times and the BBC website.

WHO HANDLED THE PR?

All media enquiries have been handled by the in-house PR department at NICE.

10,000 patients a year could benefit, says Macmillan Cancer Support.

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