Delays in drug licencing means that patients are going without treatment

It is estimated that delays in the NHS about approving drugs that can be given to patients is meaning that some patients are waiting for around nine years before they receive drugs that can treat life-threatening conditions. This information has come out of a recent study and has shown also that the average time for a drug to be approved is five years from the point at which the manufacturer obtains a licence to produce the drug.

This means that even drugs which are safer patients and have entered the market are taking an even longer time before they reach patients on the NHS. The body responsible for bringing drugs to patients is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, also known as NICE.

The process is particularly long because NICE does not begin looking to see whether the drug is appropriate for the NHS until it has been on the market for at least a year. Campaigners have said that this is unacceptable and that the organisation should start looking at lifesaving drugs immediately after they become available.

This study was conducted by the Office for Health Economics and it was published in GP Newsletter. When NICE go through the process of approving a drug, there are two channels they can push it into, a channel that approves it within a year, or one-way must undergo numerous different appraisals and can take much longer.

Some drugs take particularly long time to get approved and it is estimated in 2010, that the average for 11 drugs in the longer process was an average approval time of over a decade. These drugs included treatments for Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C as well as arthritis.

A spokesperson from NICE stated, “It is important that people interpret this study carefully, as it is not representative of exactly what is going on. The study looks at some drugs that were not part of the approval process by NICE, and are only being assessed for use now. This means that these drugs have technically been being assessed for a very long time, and these have dragged up the average processing time for all of the drugs that we look at and these are the ones that are being mentioned in this study.”