Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison has announced an independent review into the way medicines are assessed by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for use on the country’s National Health Service.

A key focus will be to evaluate whether reforms to the drug appraisals process, introduced in 2014, have improved patient access to medicines for rare and end-of-life conditions, but the review will also take a broader look at how the whole system is working in terms of providing access to new therapies.

Recent reforms included giving patients and clinicians a stronger voice - through the Patient and Clinician Engagement (PACE) group - when considering end of life treatments and those for very rare conditions, to better balance decisions and the improve the chances of access to treatments offering survival and/or quality of life benefits. 

“Since we introduced our £90 million New Medicines Fund and made changes to the SMC process in 2014, 26 medicines have been approved under the new system, and together with other reforms have benefitted over 1,000 patients in Scotland,” Robison said. 

“However, with new treatments coming to market all the time, it is important to take stock of the progress to date to continually assure ourselves that our systems for assessing and accessing new drugs are keeping pace and meeting the expectations of patients”, she noted, adding: “An important part of this is that the NHS pays a fair price for these new drugs”.

Former NHS Fife Medical Director Brian Montgomery will lead the review, which is expected to report in the summer.