UK – NICE appraisal fees to be introduced despite opposition

Concessions made for small companies. England’s cost effectiveness watchdog NICE is to start charging pharmaceutical companies for appraisals of their drugs from April 2019, despite considerable resistance from the industry and other stakeholders.

The fee for single technology appraisals (STAs) and highly specialised technology appraisals (HTAs) will be £126,000 ($158,500, €140,400).

The government has made a major concession to small companies (those with a turnover of >£36m, a balance sheet total of not more than £18m, and not more than 250 employees) who will receive a 75% discount on these charges, resulting in a fee of £31,500.

The new charges are expected to generate £10m annually, and are necessary because the government has cut NICE’s funding and simultaneously increased its workload in recent years – the number of STAs having more than doubled in the last four years and set to keep rising.

This budget pressure first led NICE to raise the idea of fees in August 2016, but concerted opposition from pharma – and its demands for reform of its appraisal methodology in return – saw the idea shelved for a period.

However the proposal was resurrected this year, and now despite most consultation respondents opposing the move (mainly pharma or patient organisations), fees for appraisals will be introduced from April.

The government’s response to the consultation shows that a majority of respondents (62%) disagreed with the charges, though also notes that just over half of responses (51%) agreed that life sciences companies should “contribute to the cost of developing NICE recommendations.”