A new "Innovation Pass", to be administered by UK cost-effectiveness watchdog the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), was a top action item within the UK government’s new Life Sciences Blueprint, unveiled at Imperial College Business Center in London today.
The Blueprint’s lofty goals include turning the UK into a more attractive location for life sciences companies (not least through tax incentives and measures to facilitate clinical trials), improving the country’s currently dire financing situation for small companies, encouraging industry-academia collaboration and—here it is—improving access to innovative new medicines. (Read the whole thing here.)
Who chooses which drugs will be selected? NICE will, noted deputy CEO Gillian Leng during the Blueprint launch. “We will decide on the criteria for granting an innovation Pass”, she said, following consultation with stakeholders at the end of this year. With a budget of just £25 million for the 2010/2011 pilot year for the initiative, we’re not talking hundreds of drugs here. More like ten.
Which helps explain why a Genzyme executive thoughtfully thrust his proposal for the “kind of drug that we think might be included in the scheme” under this blogger’s nose during coffee. It’s ataluren (there, I’ve done the favor)—an oral compound, previously known as PTC124, which targets a nonsense genetic mutation believed to cause Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy in boys. The compound’s in a 165-patient Phase IIb trial in collaboration with PTC Therapeutics, its originator.
The Innovation Pass will sit on top of all this, according to Lord Drayson (a co-founder in 1993 of PowderJect, sold to Chiron—now Novartis—ten years later for £542 million). “It’s time-limited, budget-limited, and highly complementary to the normal NICE process,” he said. Indeed, once sufficient data is collected on a drug with an Innovation Pass, that treatment will go through the regular NICE appraisal system—and may be rejected, Drayson confirmed. (Sparks will fly among patient groups and the public if so, but NICE is used to that.)