At a glance: PROs embrace NICE fast-tracking process

NICE has introduced a Single Technology Appraisal process to produce faster guidance on life-saving drugs that have already been licensed, and on new medicines at the time they become available.

Which drugs are on the list?
Currently they are mostly cancer treatments. The first to be reviewed using the rapid process are three breast cancer products – Taxotere, Taxol and Herceptin – plus MabThera (for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and Velcade (used to fight multiple myeloma, or bone marrow cancer).

I guess the relevant PR teams must be chuffed...
It's certainly very good news for most. PR for Sanofi-Aventis product Taxotere is led by in-house brand comms manager David Keown and supported by Manning Selvage & Lee. Greg Page, Roche PR manager for oncology and virology, leads the accounts for both Herceptin and MabThera. Ketchum also works on both brands. PR for Janssen-Cilag's Velcade is handled in-house.

What about Taxol?
Richard Marsh, director of external affairs for Bristol-Myers Squibb, says the company will not be actively promoting Taxol as it does not have exclusivity on the brand any more.

What's behind the NICE news?
The vast majority of drugs will still be assessed under NICE's existing system, but the organisation is obviously keen to provide fast, efficient assessment and guidance on life-saving products. And public interest in health appears to be on the rise –  for example, NICE was recently stung by media criticism after a patient campaign for more access to Herceptin hit the headlines (PRWeek, 14 October).

Why is the new system faster?
Because manufacturers will provide a single submission of evidence, on which NICE says it will carry out a quicker independent assessment and move swiftly to the appeal stage of the process.

Any more drugs in the pipeline?
NICE reveals that 14 drugs (13 of which are anti-cancer) that have been referred to it are suitable for the new system. Guidance on these could be published between six and 15 months earlier than previously planned – with more than half at least eight months earlier. The first guidance could come as early as March 2006.

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