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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 13:56 GMT
Drug appraisals 'too long', say GPs
Herceptin is not licensed for early breast cancer
Most GPs are dissatisfied with the time taken to approve new drugs for the NHS in England, a BBC survey suggests.

The results were gathered for File On 4 by Medix, an independent information service for doctors.

They favour a faster system of approval such as the one in Scotland.

Of those surveyed,59% said the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence took too long to report on the cost-effectiveness of treatments.

We've got enough money to run both the short process and the current process
Andrew Dillon, Nice
Only 4% of the 413 GPs questioned in the survey said the time taken was too short.

Concern was even greater among a group of 62 cancer specialists, with 51 of them saying the system was "too slow" and none saying it was too fast.

The great majority of GPs, 83%, expressed support for a more rapid decision process, similar to the one currently used by the NHS in Scotland which reports within three months of a drug being referred to it.

Using independent analysis of drugs, Nice currently averages 14 months for an appraisal process.

Stuck in queue

Following the recent publicity over the breast cancer drug Herceptin, the government announced a new fast-track process through Nice for selected drugs, mainly in the treatment of cancer.

But this would not be a panacea for all patients, according to Cancer Research UK, since it leaves other drugs, such as those used to treat heart disease, stuck in the current queue while Nice decides if they should be funded by the NHS.

Chief Executive of Nice, Andrew Dillon, denied that the appraisals of drugs not in the fast-track process would be further delayed.

"With the resources that we've got available this year, and the resources that the Department of Health has indicated we're going to get next year and beyond, we've got enough money to run both the short process and the current process."

File On 4: BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 15 November, 2005 at 2000 GMT and repeated on Sunday 20 November, 2005 at 1700 GMT.

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