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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 16:50 GMT
Nice decisions to be 'public'
Beta interferon injection
NICE's decision on beta interferon was leaked in advance
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is to publicly disclose its initial views on whether drugs should be available on the NHS.

Up until now the institute has tried to keep provisional decisions on whether a drug should be made available on the NHS secret.

But recent rulings of controversial drugs have been leaked to the press ahead of a final decision, to the embarrassment of NICE officials.

The institute's board voted on Wednesday to scrap the secrecy surrounding the process and to publish provisional views on its website in future.


Confidential documents have been regularly leaked

Professor Michael Rawlins, NICE

The provisional decision is the initial view taken by the institutes appraisal committee on whether a drug should be available on the NHS.

After making that provisional ruling, it consults patients' groups and drugs companies who can make their case for or against that decision.

An appeal panel can order the committee to reassess their guidance and after further consultation, a final determination is made.

The institute would previously only give details of its decision when a final ruling had been make.

The government refers drugs to the NICE for appraisal. In turn, its members advise ministers on which drugs should be made available on the NHS.

When the institute was established in 1998, drug companies had argued that the appraisal process should be carried out in secret.

They said that announcing provisional rulings could adversely affect share prices and could cause unnecessary anxiety for patients.

Leaks

However, provisional decisions on the anti-flu drug Relenza, the MS drug beta interferon and taxanes treatments for cancer have all been leaked.

Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of Nice said carrying out the appraisals in secret was unsustainable.

"It was clear to the board that the current position regarding confidentiality is unsustainable.

"There are large numbers of people involved in the consultation process, and while Nice can guarantee the integrity of its own processes, we can't control what others might do and therefore confidential documents have been regularly leaked.

"This is not in the interests of either the Institute or patients."

Nice will now have to consult with the Financial Services Authority about the board decision before a final decision is made in January.

The Department of Health today published details of which drugs and therapies will be assessed by Nice next.

They include the anti-smoking drug Zyban and nicotine replacement therapies, asthma inhalers for older children and growth hormones.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | Health
MS drug 'could get NHS approval'
21 Jun 00 | Health
MS patients 'denied drug'
10 Dec 99 | Health
MS drug 'should be restricted'
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