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Not so NICE: cancer patients miss out on innovative new treatments

Institute for Cancer Research highlights missed opportunities for NICE to reform its cancer drug assessment processes.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has passed up the opportunity to ensure its evaluation methods support approval of the most innovative and potentially game-changing drugs.

The Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) has shared that NICE’s proposed reforms to its drug assessment methods for the NHS fall short and in one significant respect may make access to new cancer drugs worse.

Experts at the ICR believe that too little has been done to favour drugs with innovative mechanisms of action. They have also shared that too little has been done to speed up the approval of new drugs, or remove barriers to drug approval for rare diseases including children’s cancer.

Professor Kristian Helin, chief executive of the ICR warned that the “minor tweaks” proposed in some areas would not be enough to incentivise pharmaceutical companies to take the necessary risks to create truly innovative new treatments. Patients with cancers of unmet need may therefore continue to miss out.

The ICR is, however, welcoming some of the changes proposed, particularly the recommendation that review panels should accept more uncertainty in data when considering new medicines.

It also believes that it is essential that NICE trials one major change it is proposing–to update drugs according to the severity of the disease they treat but remove criteria favouring drugs where patients are at the end of life. Cancer patients at the end of their lives may otherwise be denied new treatments that might extend their time with loved ones.

The experts also want to see greater consideration of the barriers to rare diseases. While NICE takes into account the barrier generating statistical evidence for treatments relating to rare diseases, the ICR believes it should be doing so for a much broader group, including cancers in children.

“We want to see an appraisal system that incentivises the discovery and development of the most cutting-edge new treatments and technologies and provides hope for patients with cancers that are rare or especially hard to treat,” said Professor Helin.