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When the price is right: drug costing and NICE approval

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6519 (Published 05 December 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6519
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. London

Price discounts are leading to a flurry of NICE approvals. Nigel Hawkes investigates

After years of standoffs and angry words, drug companies are cutting prices of cancer treatments in a bid to gain approval for use in the NHS in England.

This change of policy, unpredicted when the old Cancer Drugs Fund was wound up in July,1 has analysts puzzled. Has the industry finally recognised that its products are not worth as much as it once claimed? Or is there a subtle plan to clear the decks of unapproved drugs to make room in the revamped Cancer Drugs Fund for yet more expensive ones coming down the pipeline?

Whatever the reason, the result has been to allow the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to approve, at the draft or final guidance stage, seven of the first nine drugs it has reviewed from the old Cancer Drugs Fund list.2 In November NICE approved three drugs for breast cancer in as many weeks and reversed …

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