NICE faces inquiry by Commons group
By Nicholas Timmins
The Commons health committee yesterday announced terms of reference for a broad inquiry into the work of NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
The committee said it wanted to examine "why NICE's decisions are increasingly being challenged" after recent controversial recommendations that the NHS should not use certain costly cancer drugs and should restrict the use of drugs to treat Alzheimer's to those with moderate forms of the disease.
The committee said it wanted to know "whether public confidence in the institute is waning, and if so why", and said it would be looking at both NICE's evaluation process and the appeal system.
At the same time it will compare the work of NICE with that of the body that is roughly its Scottish equivalent. In some cases the latter has approved treatments that NICE has rejected.
The pharmaceutical industry's concerns that the NHS fails fully to implement NICE's recommendations when it does back new treatments and procedures will also be addressed.
The committee said it wanted to look at "which guidance is acted on, which is not and the reasons for this".
NICE is currently facing a judicial review backed by pharmaceutical companies and the Alzheimer's Society over its decision on Alzheimer's products.
The society said yesterday that the inquiry "should put a long-overdue spotlight on NICE's methods" and the "glaring absence" of an independent appeals process.