18 January 2008
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness has been criticised for failing to evaluate older medicines that might not be providing value for money.
Senior MPs said it was 'unacceptable' that Nice had ignored repeated recommendations to scrutinise older medicines that might do no good and might not be cost-effective.
In a report published on January 10, the health select committee said more should be done to encourage this 'disinvestment'. It noted that no Nice evaluation of older therapies was yet complete, but two were under way.
David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation's Primary Care Trust Network, said: 'It is important that disinvestment becomes an increasing priority for Nice, and that older treatments are reviewed to ensure PCTs can provide the most cost-effective care to patients, as highlighted in our evidence to the committee.
'However, we must be careful not to overestimate the scale of saving that could be made in the NHS.'
The MPs were also concerned by the way Nice determines whether a treatment is cost-effective. They said it was not based on empirical research and not related to the NHS budget, and should be reviewed.
The committee urged Nice to assess all new treatments as soon as they were launched so patients had access to the best, most cost-effective medicines as soon as possible.
Committee chair Kevin Barron said: 'While the committee has raised concerns about aspects of how Nice does its job, we have confidence that it can respond effectively to our recommendations.
'It is essential that Nice is left to do its job without ministerial interference. At the same time, it must have the support of ministers when it makes difficult decisions. Nice and the department must work together to ensure the effective rationing of the NHS's limited budget.'