Nice Comments ‘Brings Focus Back On Issue of Access To Drugs’

Expert Comments On Issue


Recent comments from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) have put the issue of access to drugs firmly back in the spotlight, according to a public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell.

The chairman of the organisation, Sir Michael Rawlins, recently reported in the Financial Times that it has come in for criticism over the availability of certain drugs, despite Primary Care Trusts and other organisations choosing not to implement Nice advice on the use of some medication.

He added that it was unfair for the body to be criticised over advising against expensive products, stating that such comments should be aimed instead at drug companies.

Commenting on the issue, Yogi Amin, a Partner and healthcare specialist in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, said that the quotes demonstrate the often difficult decisions which need to be made in relation to the availability of drugs.

He outlined: “Nice undoubtedly carries out a vital, unique and complex role. However, the real issue that we often see for patients is whether they can access treatment or drugs prescribed by their treating clinician.

“If they cannot, then they do have the option to bring a legal challenge against their NHS trusts to get that access, to many vital drugs and health treatments. Many patient cases have outlined clearly why they think such intervention is necessary.

“We’ve been involved in a number of cases in the past related to this issue, including helping the ladies who sought access to the breast cancer drug Herceptin and also partially sighted patients trying to access the eye drug Lucentis.

“Regardless of the difficult issues which decisions related to drug availability can pose, it is vital that the ultimate issue of ensuring patients get the best possible care is not forgotten.”