NICE guidance seeks to end postcode lottery

 New NICE guidance for local formularies requires them to include NICE-approved medicines within 90 days, and not to repeat or challenge NICE appraisals.

CCGs are also required to publish all local formulary information online in a way that is accessible and clear to patients and the public.

This guidance reflects the Government’s commitment to ending the ‘postcode lottery’ and ensuring that local prescribing makes innovative drugs available.

All CCGs are required to publish formularies by 1 April 2013, and the new NICE guidance aims to help them combine three priorities: meeting local needs, reducing variation in prescribing, and enabling rapid uptake of innovative therapies.

Until now there have been no standard guidelines for putting together a local formulary, and this has allowed wide variation in prescribing between locations.

According to the NICE good practice guide, local formularies must follow three rules to ensure they are fit for purpose and compliant with law:

• Medicines with a positive NICE appraisal must be included (where clinically appropriate and relevant to the services provided) within 90 days.

• There must be no local duplication of, or challenge to, a NICE appraisal.

• All relevant local formulary information must be published online in a clear and simple way accessible to patients, the public and stakeholders.

According to Professor Alan Silman, Chair of the Guidance Development Group, the new guidance “allows formularies to continue to respond to local needs and circumstances but also ensures that NICE’s decisions to approve an intervention and other appropriate inputs into formulary production are taken up in a timely and transparent manner.”

ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead said the guidance was “an important step forward”. However, he added, there needs to be “strong local implementation of this guidance” before the formularies are published.