Tuesday November 14, 5:06 PM
LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Britain's drugs industry warned on Tuesday
that companies may opt not to launch new medicines first in the UK if the
National Institute of Clinical Excellence publishes recommendations "prematurely".
The board of the controversial watchdog body, set up to determine which treatments should be reimbursed on the state-funded heath service, will consider on Wednesday whether to end the code of secrecy surrounding its deliberations.
Many NICE officials believe the current system is unworkable, following a series of leaks of its provisional decisions on key products.
But the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry argues confidentialty is essential, since the publication of provisional decisions could damage companies' share prices and alarm patients.
"For these reasons, if interim decisions are published, the ABPI warns that companies -- already concerned over NICE's approach to new medicines -- may decide they no longer can first launch medicines in the UK," the industry group said in a statement.
Drug makers complain NICE is a "fourth hurdle" in getting their products to market since it judges medicines that have already been approved for sale by regulators on the basis of quality, safety and efficacy.
NICE ran into a furious confrontation with Britain's biggest drugs group, Glaxo Wellcome Plc (LSE: GLXO.L - news) , last October after rejecting its 'flu drug Relenza.
That first decision has now been reviewed and new guidelines on the use of Relenza are expected to be unveiled on Friday.
A medical source told Reuters last month that NICE would back down from its previous blanket ban and recommend limited use of Relenza among elederly and other high risk patient groups.
Other controversial decisions from NICE include its recommendation that beta interferons should not be prescribed for multiple sclerosis patients other than those already receiving it. That view has now been referred back to the appraisal committee.
Beta interferon is produced by Biogen Inc of the United States, Germany's
Schering and Switzerland's Serono SA .