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NHS failing to provide NICE-approved medicines

18 October 2012

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The NHS is failing to prescribe NICE-appraised drugs in England, official data suggests.

A report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) found six medicines – which had been approved as cost effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) – were being used at rates “lower than expected”.

According to Use of NICE-appraised medicines in the NHS in England – 2010 and 2011 a further six medicines studied were being used at rates “higher than expected”.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan stressed the “experimental” nature of the research means the findings do not “definitively mean” certain drugs are being ‘under’ or ‘over’ prescribed.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said it is “concerned” about the report findings.

“It is vital that we understand when NICE recommended medicines are not reaching patients,” said Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI.

“This year’s report shows that many medicines, including new medicines, still continue to be underused. It is also clear that there is too much unwarranted regional variation – so in some parts of the country people can access a medicine, whereas just a few miles away, another person can’t.
“In the interests of the nation’s health and improving patient outcomes, these problems must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The drugs whose use was lower than expected were:

Abciximab, eptifibatide and tirofiban – for treating acute coronary syndrome.

Riluzole – a treatment to extend life in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease.

Naltrexone – for recovering heroin addicts.

Trastuzumab – used for the treatment of advanced breast cancer and gastric cancer.

Prucalopride – for the treatment of chronic constipation in women.

Febuxostat –for chronic hyperuricaemia in gout.