UK plans 'fast track' for most cost-effective new medicines

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s healthcare cost agency NICE, which determines if medicines should be used in the state health system, plans to fast-track its recommendations for the most cost-effective new drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said on Thursday that treatments offering exceptional value for money could be cleared for National Health Service use nearly three months earlier than at present under the new process.

The system will apply to treatments with a likely cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) of up to 10,000 pounds ($12,500). For these products, final NICE guidance would be published immediately after a drug wins its official marketing license.

A new budget impact threshold of 20 million pounds per year is also being proposed as a way of better managing the introduction of drugs that are cost-effective but have a very high price. NICE generally approves drugs with a QALY up to 30,000 pounds. A QALY is a broad measure of health, where one QALY equals one year of perfect health or two years of 50 percent health.

NICE is consulting on the planned changes until Jan. 13, 2017.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Ruth Pitchford