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Faster, cheaper and more innovation: how drug approvals for the NHS are changing

Changes are being made to the way drugs are approved for the NHS. Here’s what you need to know about the changes – and what they might mean for people with MS.

Accelerating access to treatments

October 2016 saw the publication of the accelerated access review, a report recommending ways to improve access to life-changing new treatments. Recommendations included:

  • better ways of identifying potential treatments
  • a quicker process of approval for five new treatments a year
  • an ‘accelerated access collaborative’ - a group of clinicians, industry, regulators and patient groups who will identify which treatments should be selected for this process

Building on these proposals, last year saw a number of recommendations in reports from the life sciences sector. These looked at how to grow the UK’s ability to develop new treatments and how to improve access to them.

The reports were followed by the first sector deal laying out investment from Government and industry. All these deals and recommendations address the need for greater innovation and support for the life sciences within the wider context of Brexit negotiations.

Quicker treatment appraisal

In England and Wales NICE decide whether new treatments are clinically and cost effective for us on the NHS. Northern Ireland consider NICE decisions and usually follow them. Scotland has an entirely separate process (but that’s for another blog!).

The method NICE use to appraise drugs takes a long time and includes various calls for evidence and several meetings.

NICE have proposed new changes to the appraisal system in order to speed up the process. They include:

  • earlier discussions with pharmaceutical companies to address any challenges that could stall the progress of the appraisal
  • fewer official meetings and discussions with stakeholders

We’ve been feeding into the NICE changes to make sure patients are more involved in the process.

However, speeding up the process unfortunately doesn't change the fact the health system is struggling to afford new drugs. Last April NICE and NHS England introduced an extra affordability test for approved treatments.

What does this mean for people with MS?

New treatments are coming through for MS every year, but the majority are for relapsing forms of MS.

Only one treatment has been licensed to treat primary progressive MS, but it’s not currently available on the NHS. There are still no treatments for secondary progressive MS or any that have been proven to reverse the effects of MS.

Reforms aimed at quicker access for life-changing treatments mean that groundbreaking MS drugs could be made available faster.

But the ongoing financial pressure on the NHS means that the benefit to people with MS will need to be even clearer and stronger than before.

The right treatment at the right time

Through our Treat me right campaign we’ll continue to do everything we can to speed up access to the advances in MS treatments.

> Find out more about Treat me right