U.K. aims for quicker adoption of new meds

Last week, the news from the U.K. was all about restrictions, as the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence refused to pay for Roche's cancer treatment Avastin. This week, the British government is pledging the opposite. Under an NHS overhaul set to be unveiled this week, locally run primary care trusts will be pushed to pay for drugs--even if NICE hasn't yet given its blessing--as long as there's a clear benefit for patients.

It's an attempt to replace the patchwork of drug availability--what locals call the "post code lottery"--with a more uniform set of reimbursement standards. Not only will the local trusts be pressured to adopt meds, but NICE will have to speed up its review, ruling on most meds within six months. The watchdog will even be checking out drugs that haven't been approved yet.

The catch: The plan includes $100 million in new funding because the loosening restrictions are expected, of course, to lead to greater demand. Critics no doubt will argue that's not enough. Stay tuned.

- read the Guardian article