U.K. reforms leave NICE in judge's chair

Remember the reports that the U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog would be shunted aside as the country adopts value-based pricing? Well, scratch that. As the government rethinks proposed National Health Service reforms, it's also reconsidering its overhaul of the drug-pricing chain of command.

Yes, the U.K. health system will be moving to value-based pricing--whatever that turns out to mean--by 2014. But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence won't become an advisory body whose decisions about cost-effectiveness are only, well, advisory. NICE will keep its teeth, agency chief Andrew Dillon told Reuters. It will still have the authority to decide which treatments should be used by NHS.

So, how might NICE work in the value-based pricing era? The new scheme will aim to put higher prices on drugs that are most effective, most innovative and address unmet medical needs. NICE is likely to set up a series of cost-effectiveness brackets to help companies determine where new products are likely to fall, Reuters reports. "The government wants a system that is as predictable as possible...so that it will be very easy for companies to work out whether or not the NHS is likely to find their price acceptable," Dillon said (as quoted by the news service).

And if NICE doesn't accept a company's proposed price? All this has yet to be worked out, but Dillon took a stab at it. "[I]f the price is beyond the relevant threshold," he said, "then my assumption is that would trigger negotiations between the government and the pharmaceutical company."

- get the Reuters news
- see the InPharm coverage

ALSO: Novartis failed to win approval from the U.K.'s health-cost agency for its drug Lucentis in diabetics who suffer an eye condition. Report