NICE isn’t supposed to be, not to pharmaceutical companies, at least. NICE, which stands for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, is the trusty guard dog at the gates of the UK’s cash-strapped National Health Service.
Its role is to determine which drugs should be allowed onto the NHS’s approved list of drugs, based on their efficacy and cost. Getting onto the list is the Holy Grail for every pharmaceutical because it’s a passport to serious profits.
So you’d expect NICE officials to be critical and dispassionate about the drug companies and their products, perhaps. Unfortunately, an independent review by the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that some of the members have close ties to the pharmaceutical industry, like being employed by them, for instance.
The WHO was also concerned that NICE wasn’t transparent; in other words, nobody knows what they’re doing, and how they come to their decisions.
Michael Rawlins, NICE’s chairman, said the WHO report would ‘feed into a review of methods and appraisals currently being conducted’.
So that’s all right, then.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 327: 637).