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New UK Guidelines on Cancer Drugs May Not Improve Access

Previously rejected drugs still would not qualify under new cost-effectiveness criteria in United Kingdom

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has changed its criteria for approval of end-of-life drugs, but the changes will not improve the availability of drugs previously rejected on the grounds of poor cost-effectiveness, according to an article published online Jan. 13 in BMJ.

James Raftery, Ph.D., of the University of Southampton in the U.K., examined the impact of NICE's new criteria, which took effect this month, on 11 drugs that were refused recommendation between 1999 and 2008 for end-of-life treatment on the grounds that they were not sufficiently cost-effective.

The new criteria apply to drugs that can offer at least three months' more life expectancy to a small group of patients, typically with a life expectancy of less than two years, the author notes. Raftery found that few of the previously rejected drugs would now qualify because they still failed to fulfill the criterion that there was no alternative with similar benefits.

"My analysis suggests that NICE's new arrangements for appraising end-of-life drugs may do little to improve availability of expensive cancer treatments. Few of the rejected drugs would qualify under the new criteria, with much depending on the interpretation of the criterion that no alternative treatment with comparable benefit is available through the National Health Service," Raftery writes.

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