At a glance: NICE guidance will double during 2004

What does this mean for pharma lobbyists? All National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidance, which covers everything from multiple sclerosis to self-harm, is open to consultation. This means there will be more chance to influence the decisions on which medicines and treatments are used in the NHS in England and Wales.

So PROs will have a greater opportunity to argue their cases?

Much guidance is on technology appraisals: the use of new and existing medicines and treatments. Any company whose drugs are being approved by NICE will be involved in that process. The organisation will want to see if there is new evidence or research recommendations it should incorporate into its guidelines.

What else will NICE look at?

Clinical guidelines – the appropriate treatment and care of patients with specific conditions; and whether interventional procedures for diagnosis are safe enough and work well for routine use.

What should PROs be looking out for?

Twelve new technology appraisals expected this year include treatments for lung cancer and osteoporosis; and 15 clinical guidelines include ones on depression and fertility. Around 100 appraisals on interventional procedures are expected.

Why has NICE increased the number of times it consults?

NICE is given topics to look into by the Department of Health. Guidance from 1999 is under review now – in effect, it is looking at four-year-old guidelines as well as putting out guidance on new subjects. The amount of guidance will continue to increase.

How does the process work?

Stakeholders are invited to submit comments on NICE’s provisional guidance recommendations. These comments are sent to developers of the guidance and are posted on NICE’s website after final guidelines are published. NICE has just changed the way it disseminates material, producing a quick reference guide, an update for primary care and a new parliamentary bulletin.

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