the five-year plan to improve patient access to innovative treatments

The Covid-19 pandemic and its unprecedented demands have forced health authorities the world over to reassess the way they work – and the UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is no exception. This month, the organisation launched an ambitious five-year strategy to enhance its relationship with the life science industry and speed up patients’ access to innovative treatments, citing coronavirus as the catalyst behind the change.

Formed after talks with key opinion leaders, patient groups and other stakeholders, the new approach will see NICE move to adopting more modular recommendations that are “useful, useable and rapidly updated”, and informed by the latest information and technology. As part of its commitment to innovation, the organisation also plans to transform its assessment methods to allow for faster access to less traditional products, including diagnostics, genomics, advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) and digital health.

Other industry challenges the strategy addresses include tackling health inequalities, the economically and environmentally efficient use of resources, and integrating health and care systems to reduce organisational barriers.

Improving collaboration and access to innovation

In the 2021-2026 strategy document, NICE emphasises the importance of improving its engagement with pharma and biotech companies over the next five years – but what will this look like?

NICE’s deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, Meindert Boysen, says while NICE has worked closely with the industry for two decades, the organisation’s new approach will see this relationship become more cooperative.

“Triangulation between NICE, the NHS and the company when it comes to evidence collection and commercial arrangements have been there to a large extent already,” Boysen says, “but we’re seeing that we have to do this collaboration earlier, and we need to give a better insight into the landing strip for a new innovation.

“What the industry will see is a new front door to NICE. We’ve got what, at the moment, we’re calling the life sciences hub, and that should give companies a really good insight into what we offer as a service, but also how we link into other structures.”

Boysen says that through the new strategy, NICE hopes “we will speed up our evaluations, and will be flexible and responsive to the needs of individual companies and their evidence”.

Effective collaboration with pharma and biotech companies is a must if NICE is to accelerate the evaluation of innovative treatments and bring them to patients more quickly. Boysen says ATMPs, or cell and gene therapies, are one of the innovations the organisation finds particularly promising and is most keen to make accessible.

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