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New medicines review

14/11/2012

A review is underway to assess the current systems for making new medicines available across NHS Scotland to ensure consistency of approach to their introduction, Health Secretary Alex Neil announced today.

The Health Secretary has instructed work to be undertaken to look at every aspect of the introduction of new medicines from national advice to local decision-making to establish whether any further improvements can be made.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) appraises all newly licensed medicines and provides advice to NHS Boards on their clinical and cost-effectiveness. Currently, if a medicine is accepted for use by the SMC then individual health boards set the criteria for prescribing it. If the medicine is not accepted then health boards do not make it routinely available. However, clinicians can prescribe medicines that are not accepted for routine use by the SMC for individual patients in certain circumstances by special request through Individual Patient Treatment Requests.

Independent expert Professor Philip Routledge will review current new medicines assessment processes of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) against those of similar organisations elsewhere, to see if there are any areas of good practice that Scotland could learn from.

The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Professor Bill Scott will assess how the SMC’s decisions are implemented by NHS boards to ensure there is a consistent and effective approach to prescribing policies across the country, including Individual Patient Treatment Requests to establish whether any further improvements can be made.

The focus of this work is to ensure there is a consistent and effective approach to prescribing policies for new medicines across the country.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

"We know that the Scottish Medicines Consortium is globally respected and has the fastest and most efficient medicine review process anywhere in the UK.

"Some clinicians, charities and patients have, though, raised concerns about access to medicines, so it is only right that we look at ways that we could potentially improve access arrangements.

"Scotland’s NHS is renowned as being at the forefront of new technologies and innovation – I want to make sure that the same is true of access to new medicines."

Professor Angela Timoney, Chair of SMC recognises the challenges around the introduction of new medicines.

Professor Timoney said:

"The SMC is confident that its work is rigorous and of high quality. People from many countries come to Scotland to observe and learn from the SMC approach. We are always willing to learn lessons from other countries so my colleagues and I will support Professor Routledge in his work."

Professor Routledge’s review of SMC processes will consider:

SMC processes against those of similar organisations elsewhere, to see if there are any areas of good practice that Scotland could learn from.

Prof Scott’s review of how SMC decisions are implemented will consider:

How SMC decisions are implemented locally by NHS Boards and the consistency of approach to Individual Patient Treatment Requests across the country.

Professor Philip Routledge is Professor of Clinical Pharmacology in Cardiff University, and Clinical Director of the All Wales Therapeutics and Toxicology Centre. He chairs the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group and since 1981, has been an honorary consultant general physician/clinical pharmacologist in Cardiff (Cardiff and Vale University Health Board).