NHS use of NICE-approved medicines is uneven

 NHS uptake of NICE-approved medicines varies according to location and disease area, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The HSCIC report shows that for 13 disease areas where comparison was possible, use of NICE-approved drugs was above the expected level in six and below it in six.

Roche’s cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) was among several medicines whose prescription level was lower than expected.

Comparisons between NHS organisations indicate regional variation.

However, HSCIC Chief Executive Tim Straughan said: “Anyone interpreting the figures needs to be clear about the limitations of what the data show and it would certainly be wrong to think they definitively show drugs are being either ‘under’ or ‘over’ prescribed.”

Medicines whose uptake was higher than expected included carmustine implants and temozolomide (for brain cancer), varenicline (for smoking cessation), insulin glargine and detemir (for type 1 diabetes), statins (for high cholesterol) and drugs for osteoporosis.

Medicines whose uptake was lower than expected included riluzole (for MND), naltrexone (for heroin addiction), trastuzumab (for breast and gastric cancer), prucalopride (for chronic constipation), febuxostat (for gout) and drugs for acute coronary syndrome.

Steve Oldfield, Managing Director UK & Ireland of Sanofi, commented: “Many of the medicines appraised by NICE which are absent from the report are not reaching patients as quickly as they should, as local funding pressures in the NHS start to bite.

“More worryingly still, the very latest medicines launched in the last two years are being used significantly less than expected.”