NICE (National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence), the much-maligned body that determines which drugs should be available on the UK’s National Health Service, is finally fighting back.
Of late, it’s been the whipping boy of drug companies and irate patients who blame it for blocking ‘life-saving’ drugs. Drug companies have threatened to withdraw investment in the UK unless NICE starts approving their drugs. And now several of them are threatening to sue NICE over its recent decisions.
So NICE has finally decided to get a little nasty. It’s been pointing out that the manufacturers themselves fund many of the patient groups that are campaigning for the drugs’ admittance to the NHS.
Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE’s chairman, describes the relationship as ‘distasteful’.
The Alzheimer’s Society has led a patient revolt against NICE’s ruling to bar dementia drugs Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon from the NHS. In the last year, the society received funding of £31,000 from Pfizer, which makes Aricept, £13,000 from Shire Pharmaceuticals, which makes Reminyl, and £14,000 from Novartis, which makes Exelon.
Similarly, patient group Cancerbackup, one of the chief campaigners against NICE’s ruling on breast cancer ‘wonder’ drug Herceptin, receives £29,000 funding from Roche, Herceptin’s manufacturer.
(Source: Sunday Times, 3 December, 2006).E-news broadcast 7 December 2006 No.316