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Uptake of new medicines is a major problem, admits NICE

Chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon says issue needs to be tackled collectively by pharma, the NHS, government and NICE

ABPI Conference Sir Andrew Dillon NICE

Uptake of new drugs by the UK's NHS is a major problem that needs to be tackled collectively by pharma and the health service, according to the National Institute of Healthcare and Clinical Effectiveness's (NICE) chief executive.

Sir Andrew Dillon (pictured left on the screen) told the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) recent annual conference that the uptake issue is “of all the problems that we're all facing collectively, the biggest”.

Addressing an audience of pharma executives Dillon added that uptake of new medicines is “a distinct problem in its own right and needs to be tackled collectively by government, by the NHS, by the industry, by organisations like NICE”.

There are two sides to the problem, he said, and they need to be tackled simultaneously.

The first is “improving the evaluative process” and the second is “really trying to get sorted the response of the NHS once a positive signal is sent into the system about a new drug,” Dillon said.

The problem has vexed the industry for years, initially in the form of 'NICE blight' – which refers to incidents when funding for new treatments is withheld until a NICE appraisal.

But Dillon's comments are one of the most direct acknowledgements from NICE that more needs to be done after the Institute has given a positive recommendation on a drug's use.

The issue of uptake also came up last December when the government announced a series of measure to support the UK life sciences industry and pledged to take action to ensure NICE-backed drugs are used in practice.

Nevertheless the ABPI's chief executive Stephen Whitehead, also speaking at the Association's conference last month, said: “We need to ensure that uptake in the UK is dramatically improved.”

The latest advances in new medicines are “wasted if they do not reach patients”, he added.

“What good is it having a new, more effective medicine if no-one's using it. We have to guarantee that the uptake in the UK is dramatically improved. That is a critical mission for the ABPI.”

To help improve the situation the ABPI launched in April a new regional partnership team, and one of its aims will be to “spur more rapid access and uptake of new medicines,” Whitehead said.

He added that UK uptake of new medicines is significantly slower than the European average, and singled out oncology in particular, where use of new cancer drugs is 33 per cent lower than the European average.

Also speaking at the ABPI's annual conference was Dr Susan Galbraith, head of oncology, innovative medicines research unit at AstraZeneca, who noted that “getting regulatory approval is no longer the moment of truth”.

“It's only the beginning of the journey that gets a new medicine to patients. As the demand for healthcare grows, so too does the pressure on those that pay for it,” she said.

10th May 2012


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