The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness gatekeeper may invite in more new drugs. In an aim to encourage innovation, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence could incentivize the pharma industry, offering higher prices for new, cutting-edge treatments. That's the suggestion from Sir Ian Kennedy, who has been studying NICE's effects on innovation at the agency's request.
Kennedy, former chief of the Healthcare Commission that regulates the National Health Service, suggests that NICE raise its price ceiling on important new drugs for two or three years, to allow drugmakers to collect an extra reward for innovative treatments. He wasn't thrilled by some other lowering-the-bar suggestions, such as offering an "innovation pass" to niche meds. Those ideas wouldn't be necessary if his recommendations are adopted, he said.
Plus, he said, NICE needs to make nice with drugmakers and vice-versa. Now, pharma and NICE see themselves as enemies, he said: "[T]he impression is one of undeclared hostilities, if not war. Pharma sees NICE as a barrier to its ambitions to bring products to patients. NICE sees itself as the guardian of the public purse and of all patients." Companies should be invited to NICE appraisal meetings, he says, and the agency should work more closely with industry in other ways, too.
There is a trade-off to his innovative-drugs rewards program, however. If NICE spends more money on new, innovative treatments, it will have to spend less elsewhere. That's a reality that's tough for pharma to swallow, he says, but it is reality. For its part, the industry trade group in the U.K. supported Kennedy's recommendations: "[T]he sooner they are implemented, the sooner patients in the U.K. will... enjoy access to... modern treatments." NICE is expected to respond after its next board meeting.