NHS patients could face delays accessing life saving drugs.
New rules mean health bosses in England can delay roll-out of expensive treatments after approval by NICE.
NICE has imposed a £20m-a-year cap on the cost of new drugs, to be introduced in the NHS in a move to ease some of the financial pressure it’s under.
The new measure will be introduced next month, and could lead to delays of up to three years before new drugs are available on the NHS. The measure is aimed at giving NHS chiefs the opportunity to re-negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
Even when a drug has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which already has strict rules on affordability, bosses at NHS England can now slow down its delivery to patients. The move applies to any drugs that are expected to cost £20m or more in any of the first three years of their rollout across the NHS.
This could apply to cheaper drugs that will be used by hundreds of thousands of people or very expensive drugs used by a small number of people. Drugs used to treat a range of conditions, including diabetes or cancer, could be affected.
NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said the move was needed given the “significant financial challenge facing the NHS”.
Patient groups and the drug industry have already objected to the plan – a consultation has been run over the past three months. Currently, drugs that are assessed as being cost-effective by NICE are automatically recommend for use in the NHS.
Once that happens, the health service has 90 days to start offering the drugs. But crucially that process just assesses the cost versus benefit of the drug on the basis of the impact to an individual.
It does not take into account how many people may take the drug and therefore the total cost to the NHS. Last year £16.8bn was spent on drugs by the NHS, up from £13bn in 2011. There is concern a breakthrough in fields such as dementia could end up costing the NHS billions of pounds.