Ensuring patients have access to the most effective treatments

Since the programme was set up, we have said "yes" to around 80 per cent of the technologies we have appraised.

NICE technology appraisals aim to ensure equal and consistent access to new and existing medicines and treatments deemed clinically and cost-effective for use in the primary care and the wider NHS.

This year, we published 32 technology appraisals on a range of diseases and conditions that included prostate cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The majority of these appraisals contained positive recommendations for use in the NHS.

NICE technology appraisals were originally introduced to help remove the ‘postcode lottery’ in patient care, to increase the availability of new drugs.

Since the programme was set up, we have said “yes” to around 80 per cent of the technologies we have appraised. In addition, we have recommended 61 per cent of technologies in line with their indicated use, and a further 19 per cent of technologies recommended for optimised use under specific conditions, such as in certain patient groups.

Only 15 per cent of technologies have not been recommended – and in most instances this is due to a lack of evidence for clinical effectiveness, or if the treatment is not considered to be a cost-effective use of NHS resources, compared with current NHS practice.

In January 2014, we recommended a new treatment option for multiple sclerosis. Our guidance said that teriflunomide (also called Aubagio) should be used as a treatment for adults with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Teriflunomide is anti-inflammatory that works by blocking proliferation of stimulated lymphocytes.

Professor Carole Longson, NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director, said: "Current treatments all need to be injected, and can be associated with unpleasant side effects. As an oral treatment with a different side-effect profile, teriflunomide offers a new option for treating relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which could have a substantial impact on quality of life for people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis."

Nick Rijke, Director for Policy & Research at the MS Society, added: "We've been waiting a long time for a tablet to be available for early stage MS, so this is excellent news. As well as making another valuable treatment available for people with MS, many people will be delighted to have the option of a tablet rather than regular injections, which can be difficult to manage."

We also recommended a new treatment for asthma. Our guidance gave the green light to omalizumab (Xolair, Novartis Pharmaceuticals) as an option for treating severe, persistent allergic asthma in adults, adolescents and children aged 6 years and older.

Omalizumab works by blocking immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies from attaching to allergens. When IgE attaches to an allergen, it sets off a process that eventually leads to an allergic reaction.

Professor Carole Longson, said: “NICE is pleased to recommend omalizumab, with the agreed patient access scheme submitted by the manufacturer, as an effective add-on therapy for adults, adolescents and children with severe, persistent allergic asthma, which can have a significant effect on a person's life.”

In March this year, NICE began a public consultation on proposed changes to the way it makes recommendations on new medicines and other treatments for use in the NHS.

The new proposals include ways to take into account more systematically and explicitly the severity of a disease, as well as the effect that diseases and conditions have on our capacity to engage in society.

Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE, said: "These proposed changes to the way we value new treatments will add further clarity to our recommendations and enable our independent advisory committees to explore more fully the potential these treatments have to improve outcomes for patients."

The consultation ended in June, and the NICE Board will consider the final addendum to the ‘Guide to the methods of Technology Appraisals'. It is anticipated that changes will be introduced in the Autumn, and any topics appraised by NICE following approval of the final new methods will be subject to the new arrangements.

NICE publishes 300th technology appraisal

This year, we reached the milestone of publishing our 300th piece of technology appraisal guidance.

Our guidance recommended peginterferon alfa in combination with ribavirin to treat chronic hepatitis C in children with young people.

Hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that infects the liver, chronically affects an estimated 200,000 people in England.

People who have injected drugs in the past, or who have been a regular sexual partner with someone with hepatitis C are more at risk than others of having the virus.

However, children of mothers with the disease are also at increased risk, with cases of children newly diagnosed with the virus emerging each year. Figures from the Health Protection Agency show that 26 babies aged under 1 were newly diagnosed with hepatitis C in England in 2011.

The independent appraisal Committee concluded that treatment with peginterferon alfa has long-term benefits that could potentially last for the lifetime of the child or young person, effectively providing a cure.

The committee also acknowledged that the treatment could provide benefits to parents and carers, such as reducing the guilt burden that is associated with transmission of hepatitis C from mother to baby.

Professor Carole Longson said: "The independent Appraisal Committee concluded that treatment with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin can decrease the hepatitis C virus to undetectable levels, effectively providing a cure for the disease.

"Early successful treatment is also likely to lessen the social stigma that can be associated with hepatitis C infection later in life."

She added: "By widening access to these drugs this guidance will give clinicians and people living with hepatitis C more treatment options."