The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has announced that it will undertake a short, independent study into how value is taken into account in the examination of new health technologies.

The study, which will be led by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, emeritus professor of health law, ethics and policy at University College London (UCL), will look at “whether particular forms of value are more important than others, and will explore factors that should be taken into account in establishing the value of new health technologies,” said NICE’s chairman, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins. Included in the process will be submissions and a series of workshops involving the healthcare industries, patients and the wider public, together with representatives of the National Health Service (NHS). Sir Ian has been asked to submit his report in time for the NICE Board meeting in July.

“Understanding the value, to patients, of new health technologies is central to the work that NICE does in advising health professionals, patients and the wider public on the best approach to improving the quality and consistency of care provided by the NHS. Since NICE was established we have regularly consulted on our approach to valuing innovation and the question of how to establish value has always been part of the public debate around NICE decisions,” said Sir Michael.

He added that NICE supported the stress placed last week by Sir David Cooksey, in his report on the future of the UK bioscience sector, on the importance of NICE and the pharmaceutical industry working towards a shared understanding of how to value innovative new health technologies.

Last week’s report, which was produced by the BioIndustry Association (BIA)-led Bioscience Innovation and Growth Team (BIGT) chaired by Sir David, called on the government for an independent inquiry to assess the long-term impact on NICE on the costs, access to and uptake of medicines in the UK, and to review the way in which NICE values medicines.

Describing NICE as “a mixed blessing,” Sir David writes: “the theory behind Health Technology Appraisal (HTA) is good, but the effect has been to delay the introduction of new therapies and shorten patent-protected marketing periods. When you add to this the uncertainty of receiving a positive recommendation from NICE, the result is that fewer drugs are coming to the market and benefiting patients.”

The BIGT report also says that there is much to be done to align regulatory and NICE activities, pointing out that, according to data collected by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) for 29 products going through the centralised European Medicines Agency (EMEA) approval process, NICE appraisal delays represented a loss in their patent-protected lifecycles of just over 30%.