As the NHS and wider health and care system step into the next phase of response to the COVID-19 pandemic, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has announced they will begin a phased restart of publishing guidance, whilst SMC meetings are suspended from 22nd May 2020.
As mentioned in our previous news posts ‘NICE postpones majority of technology appraisals due to Covid-19‘ and ‘How is COVID-19 impacting payers and HTA decisions across the EU‘ during the initial phase of the pandemic response, NICE had paused a number of technology appraisals and prioritised publishing work that is therapeutically critical (essentially all cancer drugs and a small number of non-cancer drugs) and work relating to COVID-19.
However, as of June 1st, NICE will begin a phased return to “business as usual”, beginning with the publication of finalised guidance as soon as possible. The aim is for priority to be given to other topics that support the system to return to normal working. Committee meetings for NICE appraisals are currently taking place virtually.
In contrast to NICE, the SMC were continuing to undertake assessments and review. However, the SMC have announced that SMC and New Drugs Committees (NDC) meetings are all suspended until further notice. Whilst a core team will continue to assess new medicine submissions already in the system, the SMC is not currently accepting new submissions or re-submissions. The SMC has stated that they have considered the submissions that would have been evaluated during this period and are satisfied that alternative medicines are available for the relevant patient groups.
The approaches of the SMC and NICE highlight the potential future challenges faced for new non-COVID medicines gaining price, funding and access in the short term, as each organisation deals with the workload and personnel challenges posed by COVID-19.