Healthcare: On the Agenda - NICE in U-turn on bone marrow drug

In a nutshell

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has made an about-turn over a drug for rare blood and bone marrow disorders. In draft guidance, NICE has provisionally recommended azacitidine (marketed as Vidaza) as a treatment option for people with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). In March 2010, NICE said the NHS should not fund the use of Vidaza on the grounds that it was too expensive. The revised recommendation is conditional on the manufacturer, Celgene, providing the drug at a discounted cost as part of a patient access scheme.

What are MDS?

MDS are a group of bone marrow disorders, where the marrow does not produce enough of one or more types of blood cells. Bone marrow is the spongy substance found inside the bones that produces stem cells. All the blood cells in the body develop from stem cells. MDS are more common in older people and eight out of ten people affected are over the age of 60, but it can happen at any age.

PR strategy

NICE issued a press release to the media on 16 February under embargo until the following day. Media relations surrounding the story were handled by the NICE in-house press office.

Media coverage

The NICE U-turn was picked up widely by UK and US media. As well as extensive coverage in pharmaceutical trade press, the story was covered on 17 February by The Daily Telegraph and Reuters. 700 - Approximate number of patients with MDS in England and Wales

9 - The number of months that patients' lives can be potentially extended by the use of azacitidine

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