Concerns about the inconsistent availability of some medicines in Scotland has prompted a review of the decision-making process at the NHS’s drugs approval body.
Health secretary Alex Neil said the review of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) was launched in response to “concerns about access to medicines” raised by some clinicians, charities and patients.
The review will assess the systems for making new medicines available across NHS Scotland to ensure consistency, Mr Neil said.
He has called for a review of every aspect of the introduction of new medicines from national advice to local decision making.
Independent expert Philip Routledge will review the SMC’s assessment processes against similar organisations elsewhere to look for best-practice.
Chief pharmaceutical officer Bill Scott will assess how the SMC’s decisions are implemented by NHS boards to ensure there is a consistent and effective approach across the country.
Mr Neil said: “We know that the SMC is globally respected and has the fastest and most efficient medicine review process anywhere in the UK.
“Some clinicians, charities and patients have, though, raised concerns about access to medicines, so it is only right that we look at ways that we could potentially improve access arrangements.
“Scotland’s NHS is renowned as being at the forefront of new technologies and innovation - I want to make sure that the same is true of access to new medicines.”
The SMC appraises all newly-licensed medicines and provides advice to NHS boards on their clinical and cost-effectiveness.
If a medicine is accepted for use, then health boards set the criteria for prescribing it.
If the medicine is not accepted then health boards do not make it routinely available.
Clinicians can prescribe medicines that are not accepted for routine use for patients in certain circumstances through individual patient treatment requests.
SMC chair Professor Angela Timoney said: “The SMC is confident that its work is rigorous and of high quality.
“People from many countries come to Scotland to observe and learn from the SMC approach.
“We are always willing to learn lessons from other countries so my colleagues and I will support Professor Routledge in his work.”