PharmExec Blog

NICE Ads Deserve a Double Take

Industry may disagree with the cost effectiveness methodologies NICE uses to decide which products the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) should reimburse, but that isn’t stopping at least one US-based company from touting a NICE recommendation in its marketing materials.

Image courtesy of AdPharmCelgene’s Vidaza print ad, running in UK medical journals this month according to AdPharm, touts the tagline, “The way ahead is clear with the new NICE recommendation: ‘…[Vidaza] has the potential to extend life expectancy…’” That sentence is excerpted from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) release last February, announcing its recommendation of Vidaza (azacitidine), an injection for abnormal bone marrow blood cells. The next two sentences from the release are as follows: “During consultation on the draft recommendations, the manufacturer of azacitidine offered to provide the drug at a reduced price. Azacitidine is an expensive drug, and this discount enabled us to recommend it as a cost effective use of resources on the NHS.”

That’s fine for Celgene, but industry groups opposed to government price controls – including PhRMA – may have a trickier argument to make against NICE when a member company is out using the institute’s recommendation as a selling point to physicians. Almost no one stateside thinks NICE’s primary cost-effectiveness measure – Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY) – is without flaw, but if companies want NHS as a customer, they’d better play ball. And a lot of companies do play ball, in order to receive NICE’s blessing, but they don’t usually crow about it in their subsequent promotional pieces.

Do physicians in the UK respond positively to product marketing that incorporates a NICE recommendation? Does Celegene’s marketing on the back of a NICE recommendation splinter a unified industry front that considers price controls a hindrance to R&D innovation? Maybe and maybe not; but given the global influence of drug pricing in the UK, these considerations may require some additional assessment.

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