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The UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has announced the launch of a review of its methods for evaluating drugs, medical devices and diagnostics.

For the past 21 years, NICE has been assessing medicines using the Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) as its methodology, which measures the cost to 'buy' a patient a year of quality life. This method weighs up the cost of a potential drug for a year against the extension of life and improvement in quality of life. Currently, the threshold is set at around £30,000 per QALY.

However, the health technology assessment (HTA) agency launched the consultation last week in November following a proposal that this method should be changed in line with the developments in the drug industry, particularly when it comes to cancer treatment.

According to NICE, the consultation will consider whether additional factors should be taken into account during assessments, such as how severe a condition is and how health technologies could reduce inequalities. The review will also consider how NICE assesses rare diseases where generating evidence is difficult.

Commenting on the launch, Steve Bates, chief executive of the Bioindustry Association, said: "The proposed changes to NICE’s methods published today send an important signal to the innovative biotech sector that the UK is serious about ensuring access to new medicines.

"We are very encouraged by the focus on removing significant barriers to access, which puts the UK on a new footing, setting the benchmark for health technology appraisals – particularly around modifiers, uncertainty and discounting. It will help ensure both that industry can continue to deliver innovative medicines and that patients can access them."

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