Incremental benefits of novel pharmaceuticals in the UK: a cross-sectional analysis of NICE technology appraisals from 2010 to 2020

Tobias B. Polak, David G. J. Cucchi, Jonathan J. Darrow, Matthijs M. Versteegh

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3 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the incremental value of new drugs across disease areas receiving favourable coverage decisions by the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) over the past decade. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cross-sectional study assessed favourable appraisal decisions of drugs between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2020. Estimates of incremental benefit were extracted from NICE's evidence review groups reports. PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURE: Incremental benefit of novel drugs relative to the best alternative therapeutic option, expressed in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). RESULTS: 184 appraisals of 129 drugs provided QALYs. The median incremental value was 0.27 QALY (IQR: 0.07-0.73). Benefits varied across drug-indication pairs (range: -0.49 to 5.22 QALY). The highest median benefits were found in haematology (0.70, IQR: 0.55-1.22) and oncology (0.46, IQR: 0.20-0.88), the lowest in ophthalmology (0.09, IQR: 0.04-0.22) and endocrinology (0.02, IQR: 0.01-0.06). Eight appraisals (4.3%) found contributions of more than two QALYs, but one in four (50/184) drug-indication pairs provided less than the equivalent of 1 month in perfect health compared to existing treatments. CONCLUSIONS: In our review period, the median incremental value of novel drugs approved for use within the English National Health System, relative to the best alternative therapeutic option, was equivalent to 3-4 months of life in perfect health, but data were heterogeneous. Objective evaluations of therapeutic value helps patients and physicians to develop reasonable expectations of drugs and delivers insights into disease areas where medicinal therapeutic progress has had the most and least impact.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere058279
Pages (from-to)e058279
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2022


  • general medicine (see internal medicine)
  • health policy
  • therapeutics

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