NICE eyes NHS formularies for excluded drugs

The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog doesn't want its advice to go unheeded. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will review National Health Service formularies, which vary from locale to locale, to see not only how they're put together, but to iron out differences that may withhold drugs from patients in some areas while providing them in others.

NICE reviews new drugs for cost-effectiveness, and approval is not known as an easy mark. Still, NICE-approved meds aren't always found on local formularies, most often because officials in those areas are trying to cut costs, InPharm reports. The NHS is tasked with cutting almost $570 million from drug spending this fiscal year, and some local trusts are recommending against new and pricey drugs, even when those drugs have been cleared by NICE.

The variance in drug availability--known as "postcode prescribing"--has drawn fire from patient groups, but also from drug companies that have managed to get their products through the NICE process. The Department of Health has officially come out against postcode prescribing, InPharm notes, and that's why NICE has embarked on the formulary review.

"NICE-approved drugs should not be excluded from local formularies on the grounds of cost," NICE's deputy chief executive, Dr. Gillian Leng, said (as quoted by InPharm). "We want all patients to have access to medicines that we consider to be effective."

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