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Better access to drugs through NHS

Health Minister Mike O'Brien has said patients with rare conditions will be given access to treatments not previously available on the NHS

A small number of drugs and treatments for very rare conditions, that are not yet appropriate for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) appraisal process, can now be considered for use in the NHS, Health Minister Mike O'Brien announced on March 19. This will help give patients with very rare and extremely rare conditions access to a wider range of drugs and services.

According to Mr O'Brien, access to these drugs and services will be increased through two initiatives that are supported by patient groups, NICE, the NHS and industry, namely:

• The creation of a three-year £25m Innovation Pass pilot - as outlined in the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) blueprint - to help patients with rarer diseases access highly innovative new drugs not yet appraised by NICE

• The establishment up a new expert advisory group to strengthen the existing arrangements for commissioning services nationally for extremely rare conditions and to ensure that the system is more transparent and robust. 

Mr O'Brien stated: “Exciting, innovative new drugs, which will be included in the Innovation Pass pilot scheme will mean that, with the help of NICE, the small number of patients suffering from rarer diseases will be able to get access to a wider range of drugs and contribute to the collection of important data on their impact.

"The new expert advisory group will ensure that the assessment of new treatment services for extremely rare conditions is robust and fair. People across England can be assured that there is a transparent system in place for deciding which specialised services are commissioned nationally."

Commenting on the Innovation Pass, Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive said: "We are happy to play our part in these new arrangements, which complement NICE's work in evaluating new treatments for use in the NHS."

The vast majority of new drugs and technologies will continue to go through NICE's existing processes.

22nd March 2010

From: Healthcare

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