PenTAG’s evidence helps inform NICE guidelines

£3.5 million for Exeter team’s national health technology assessment work

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School has been awarded £3.5 million to continue providing high-quality evidence to help the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) form key decisions on healthcare.

The 10 person technology appraisal team of Peninsula Technology Assessment Group (PenTAG) has won a 5-year contract from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Programme to operate as a centre of excellence for research synthesis and economic modelling to directly inform key NHS decision-making bodies.

The contract, which is being renewed for the fourth time, will involve the team providing independent systematic evaluation of pharmaceuticals, health devices and diagnostic procedures. They will continue the work they have been conducting over the last 12 years, in carrying out assessment reports that examine the benefits, harms and costs of treatments and tests. This helps NICE decide whether new treatments represent good value for money, a critical function where funding for health care is under ever increasing pressure..

Professor Chris Hyde, who leads the group, said: “It is imperative that national healthcare decisions are based on all the available high-quality, independent research relevant to a disease, synthesised in an unbiased and transparent manner which makes clear whether the costs of new technologies are justified in terms of the benefits claimed for them. Here in Exeter, as a result of a lot of team effort, we have an excellent track record in supporting health policy-making locally, nationally and internationally. Our work means that change in national guidance is rooted in hard evidence.”

One example of PenTAG’s work to support NICE was an assessment of the use of a group of drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. The condition is diagnosed in around 800,000 people in the UK, costing the NHS around £23 billion per year. The drugs involved work by increasing the amount of  substances responsible for sending messages between brain cells, which are diminished in dementia.

PenTAG’s assessment considered new evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the drugs donepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine and memantine in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  The report was completed in June 2010 and in March 2011, NICE recommended more widespread drug usage. NHS data (2012) showed a big increase in drug prescribing since 2010.

Dr Martin Hoyle, the economic modelling lead in the technology appraisal group said: “At the time of the report, we estimated that 110,000 people had mild forms of Alzheimer’s Disease which were being untreated. Under the new guidelines they should now be receiving treatment. We calculate that in total 13,000 person years of care home admission will be avoided. If that’s the case, many people will spend longer at home before needing extra support. .”

PenTAG is one of several university-based research groups in the UK contracted to produce high quality systematic reviews and economic analyses of health technologies. Each piece of NICE guidance in the technology appraisal programme is supported by an independent academic report. PenTAG is supported by a programme manager and administrator, and includes research staff from a variety of backgrounds, including specialists in systematic review methods, health economics, information science, computer science and statistics.

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Date: 28 July 2014

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