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Scotland reviews new medicines process

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

16th November 2012 - NHS patients in Scotland often complain they are denied medicines available in England and the rest of Europe. Now the Scottish health secretary has announced a review to look at every aspect of the introduction of new medicines across NHS Scotland to see if improvements can be made.

The aim is to ensure there is a consistent and effective approach to prescribing policies for new medicines across the country. Health Secretary Alex Neil MSP says in a press statement: "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."

New medicines review

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) appraises all newly licensed medicines and provides advice to NHS Boards (the equivalent in Scotland to PCTs in England) on their clinical and cost-effectiveness in the same way as NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) does in England and Wales.

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 by the SMC then health boards do not make it routinely available.

Independent expert Professor Philip Routledge from Wales will review the 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.

Individual cases

At present individual doctors can prescribe medicines that are not accepted for routine use by the SMC for individual patients in certain circumstances through Individual Patient Treatment Requests (IPTRs). Currently who is eligible to use IPTRs varies and there are very different rates of submissions and acceptances.

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. As part of the review he will establish whether any further improvements can be made.

Welcome news

Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Scotland, Vicky Crichton, has welcomed the review.

In a press release she says: "In a health system with limited resources, SMC does an essential and difficult job well. But there have been concerns raised about patients ability to access effective medicines.

"It's important to look at the evidence and make sure the system is robust so that patients get the best treatments at a good price for the NHS. We look forward to making our contribution to the review."

Reviewed on November 16, 2012

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