Review of NHS drugs assessment ordered

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An independent review is to be carried out of the way drugs are assessed for use on the NHS in Scotland.

Former medical director for NHS Fife Dr Brian Montgomery will lead the study.

The review will look at how changes made to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) process in 2014 have affected patient access to medicines for rare and end-of-life conditions.

It will also examine how the system for getting patients access to newly-licensed drugs is working.

The SMC in an independent body that advises health boards about how effective medicines are and whether they represent value for money for the health service.

Announcing the review, Health Secretary Shona Robison said reforms had already been introduced by the SMC, designed to give more weight to the views of patients and clinicians when considering certain drugs.

‘Better quality lives’

She said: “Access to new medicines for rare or end-of-life conditions is an extremely complex issue.

“Over the last few years, this government hastaken a number of significant steps to improve the balance of these decisions and help patients get better access to treatments that can give them longer, better quality lives.

“Since we introduced our £90m New Medicines Fund and made changes to the SMC process in 2014, 26 medicines have been approved under the new system, and together with other reforms have benefited more than 1,000 patients in Scotland.

“However, with new treatments coming to market all the time, it is important to take stock of the progress to date to continually assure ourselves that our systems for assessing and accessing new drugs are keeping pace and meeting the expectations of patients.

“An important part of this is that the NHS pays a fair price for these new drugs.”

The review team is expected to report on its findings in the summer.

‘More time’

Dr Montgomery, a former GP, said he was looking forward to hearing a wide range of views on the topic.

Breast Cancer Now’s Scotland Director Mary Allison, said: “Women with incurable secondary breast cancer and those treating them need better access to innovative life-extending medicines.

“We believe that the systems in Scotland can work better to get a fairer deal for patients and the NHS.

“These drugs don’t only represent medical advances, they represent the hope of more time to see that last birthday, Christmas or holiday; they offer people a chance to share some more time with those they love.

“The solution is complicated and we welcome the fact that the systems in Scotland will be reviewed.”

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