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‘Patients Must Come First’ In NICE Drug Formula Debate

Legal Experts React To New Research About QALY Method


Concerns raised over the system used by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to recommend drugs should be investigated further to ensure the best interests of patients come first, a leading healthcare lawyer has urged.

A study funded by the European Commission has tested the quality-adjusted life years (QALY) method used to calculate the cost of using a drug for a year and the impact that will have on extending or improving a patient’s life.

The research was critical of the system, stating that it fails to adequately take into account differing views on levels of illness and disability, as well as general approaches to risk.

Experts added that the method was flawed, although NICE described the findings of the study as limited and said confidence remained high in the formula.

Irwin Mitchell has a wealth of experience when it comes to health and social care law, with its specialists representing patients who have suffered as a result of failings in treatment and others fighting to gain access to drugs and healthcare.

Yogi Amin, a Partner and expert in the national law firm’s Public Law team, said: “Very clear concerns have been raised regarding the use of the QALY, although it very much appears that opinions do differ on both the findings of the study and the effectiveness of the method.

“However, we would encourage more research to be undertaken to fully examine and understand this issue to ensure that the best approach is being used, ultimately to ensure that the best interests of patients always come first in any decision.

“Through our work, we have seen a number of instances when people have been denied treatment or care on the NHS through rationing. We have seen the great emotional pressures and strain that this places on both patients and their families.

“It is vital that discussions regarding methods and formulas do not ignore the most important aspect of this – the real people whose lives are touched by the issue and the need for access to vital healthcare and treatments. Public law can be used as a tool to ensure that healthcare decisions are made fairly and any system which rations healthcare allows for the patient and their doctor to agree on the most appropriate treatment.”