Editorials

Funding medicines for people with multiple sclerosis

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7326.1379 (Published 15 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1379

Providing outcome guarantees may help fund innovative treatment

  1. David Taylor, professor of pharmaceutical and public health policy ([email protected])
  1. School of Pharmacy, University of London, London WC1N 1AX

    The establishment of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 1999 was one of the cornerstones of New Labour's strategy for improving the NHS. Its mission includes giving guidance on how medicines should be prescribed to provide affordable value for money. This should eliminate postcode rationing, whereby some NHS patients are given expensive drugs depending on where they live, while people with similar needs elsewhere are denied the same treatment.

    Recommendations from NICE have often levelled up access to pharmaceutical care. But a recent decision by NICE not to support the use of interferon beta in multiple sclerosis has become a focus of critical attention. Patient support groups and pharmaceutical companies argue that this will undesirably lower standards of NHS care. There are also concerns among pharmaceutical companies that where Britain leads in restricting access to new drugs others may follow. The waters have also been muddied by news that Britain's Department of Health is negotiating with manufacturers of interferon beta to find a way of funding the drug for patients with multiple sclerosis on a “sale or return” basis.1

    When, last month, NICE published its “final appraisal …

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