The international unit of UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is looking to get more long-term financing in place for its activities and is heading across the Atlantic to attract US participants to a course to be held in London next year.

Speaking at the agency’s annual conference in Manchester last week, Francoise Cluzeau, senior advisor at NICE International, said it has made considerable progress since the not-for-profit consulting business was set up last year. The unit has been offering health technology assessment advice to policymakers from over 20 countries, and most recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health of China with the aim of supporting the government there with its ongoing rural health reform.

NICE International has completed a project to explore possible collaborations with the Governments of Jordan, Ghana and Columbia, programmes which have been funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Funding has also come from entities such as the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, but Dr Cluzeau told PharmaTimes World News that cash up to now has been project-specific.

Given this scenario, plans are moving forward to secure more long-term funding, eg grants over five years. Dr Cluzeau said that despite the current economic climate “there is quite a lot of money around” for the right projects.

She also revealed that a lot of interest has been coming in for a course NICE International is organising in London in March. It is open to policymakers, researchers and health professionals operating in different systems around the world but NICE expects considerable interest from the USA. Dr Cluzeau noted that people working in healthcare in the USA are “intrigued and curious” about how NICE operates.

Dr Cluzeau concluded by saying that it has been a steep learning curve for NICE International which has involved acquiring new skills, such as consulting, negotiating and understanding cultural differences.

Elsewhere at the Manchester conference, Sean Tunis, director for the Center for Medical Technology Policy in Baltimore and a former chief medical officer at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service, noted that US insurance companies comprise one of the largest groups that download NICE guidance documents from its website so the agency is certainly making an impact there. However, the view that NICE means little more than ‘death panels’ is still doing the rounds in certain right-wing circles.