NICE -- but not enough

  • by: |
  • 11/11/2005

According to the British Medical Journal, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has developed a more rapid process for assessment that will be used initially for lifesaving medicines, including several cancer drugs.

The new “single technology appraisal” process will enable NICE to develop guidance on drugs selected for rapid assessment within eight weeks — much more quickly than the current average of 18 months. It will initially be applied to lifesaving drugs that have already been licensed and to new lifesaving medicines close to the time that they first become available.

That’s the good news.

The new appraisal process will initially be applied to 14 drugs — 13 of which are cancer drugs — that have already been referred to NICE. These include docetaxel (Taxotere) for breast cancer; paclitaxel (Taxol) for breast cancer; rituximab (MabThera) for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; trastuzumab (Herceptin) for breast cancer; and bortezomib (Velcade) for multiple myeloma.

That’s the bad news — that these treatments are still not cleared for use in England.

As Joanne Rule, chief executive of the cancer information charity CancerBACUP, said, “These proposals represent a bold reform package for the future, but they don’t solve the problem of the backlog of new cancer treatments currently held up at NICE.” She added, “NICE should issue interim guidance on cancer treatments already approved for use in Scotland, and it’s crucial that the government make it crystal clear that doctors can prescribe licensed cancer drugs now.”

NICE guys must finish first.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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