NICE recommends innovative funding scheme for Velcade

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published a consultation document in which it recommends an innovative funding scheme to optimise access to the bone marrow cancer drug bortezomib, also known as Velcade.

The health watchdog has issued draft guidance recommending that the NHS should provide funding for all suitable patients with multiple myeloma, but that the drug's manufacturer should refund the cost of treatment in patients showing "a minimal or no response".

The draft recommendations follow the evaluation of a refund scheme proposed by the manufacturer after NICE originally rejected Velcade six months ago on the grounds of cost.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, commented: "We commend NICE for recommending this innovative approach and will respond positively to the consultation.

"It is essential that patients get access to treatments that will benefit them. Sadly issues of cost are accentuated where drugs only help some patients, especially if there is no way of knowing which patients are likely to benefit.

"We have recommended conditional approval of new drugs in our responses to consultations on the subjects of NICE and pharmaceutical pricing. The proposed refund scheme for bortezomib fits well with this idea.

"Pharmaceutical companies with confidence in the new treatments they are developing should not be frightened of schemes aimed at pricing treatments according to their benefit.

"Enabling the NHS to get value out of the money it spends on drugs will improve its ability to afford new treatments for cancer patients," he concluded.

Commenting on the proposed scheme, NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon said: "If the drug's manufacturer accepts the proposals we are consulting on today, it will mean that when the drug works well the NHS pays but when it doesn't the manufacturer should bear the cost.

"All patients suitable for treatment will get the chance to see if the drug works well for them," he added.

The draft guidance is now available for public consultation until June 22nd and NICE is expected to issue final guidance in October.