Tories propose NICE approval reforms

U.K. politicians are promising big reforms for the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence. The drugs watchdog--which decides which meds are used by the National Health Service--has been under fire in recent months for refusing some costly cancer meds and for an approval process that can take 18 months. Well, the Tories are pledging to cut that time frame to three to six months---an improvement of up to 15 months.

How so? The conservative party wants to remove the final step off NICE approval: a ministerial sign-off. And the Tories say they'll shift the burden of proof onto the pharma companies, so that drugmakers have to prove a drug works rather than NICE proving it doesn't.

In potentially the biggest shift, however, the party is proposing that NICE consider not only the bare cost-effectiveness of a drug, but the softer "social cost" of denying its approval as well. That means the agency could be more responsive to societal outcry when certain meds are rejected. That sort of calculus could have paid off for the makers of costly kidney cancer meds that NICE recently nixed, for instance.

Who'll foot the bill for this kinder, gentler approach? The Tories haven't answered that question.

- read the story in The Telegraph