An expert group, set up by Health Minister Edwina Hart, to look at the issues around funding drugs on the NHS that are not approved by NICE will report on its findings and recommendations in the New Year.
The group, led by Professor Philip Routledge, the chair of the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group, has been canvassing views of health professionals and patient representatives over the summer.
Hart says: “NICE and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group have an extremely difficult job in thoroughly evaluating the clinical and cost effectiveness of new drugs. In the vast majority of cases their judgement is accepted. There have been instances where health professionals and patients have had concerns about their decisions, such as access to Lucentis for Wet AMD and drugs for kidney cancer.
“This is an emotive issue and generates considerable discussion and debate. With finite resources the NHS must fund new medications that are proven to benefit. But while these independent organisations determine whether they should be used, there can be variation in access to such drugs. I have asked Professor Routledge to look into the potential difficulties surrounding the provision of drugs that do not hold NICE approval. He will engage with the leading clinicians across Wales and, in particular, with those involved in cancer care. As well as considering how the ‘non-approved’ or ‘decision pending’ drug issue might be handled in an ethical and fair manner, he will consider the matter of life-prolonging treatments that are prescribed in the last months of life, often at great expense but with little hope of success.”