Changes afoot for NICE/NPC

NICE is to lose its power to turn down new medicines for NHS use on the basis that they are too expensive for the benefits they offer, according to press reports. It will retain its role in producing guidelines but the NHS will move to a system of ‘value-based pricing’ to decide the costs of drugs, under government plans, with decisions taken by patients’ doctors and GP consortia. Lord Howe (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality – Lords) is reported to have told a trade body meeting in October that NICE was “somewhat redundant” when it came to cost-effectiveness decisions. The government’s White Paper set out NICE’s future role in developing quality standards in the future.

The news has received a mixed reaction, perhaps not surprisingly given the controversies over NICE’s role and decisions and the different interest groups involved.

The National Prescribing Centre (NPC) has announced that it is going to merge with NICE, that ministers have given approval, and that detailed discussions will start now with a view to the work being integrated by April 2011.