• Stephen Whitehead

    Posted in category Opinion by Stephen Whitehead on 25/01/2013

    ​Flaws in the QALY show why we need a broader definition of value

Calculating the cost of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) has been the cornerstone of the way in which decisions are made about what treatments should be made available to patients on the NHS. Yet today’s European Commission-funded research on QALYs reveals significant flaws in this approach.


The lead researcher has gone as far as to argue that NICE should 'abandon' the methodology and that the rest of Europe should steer clear.

The ABPI has long argued that a broader and more sensitive approach to measuring value is required, capturing what really matters to patients, their carers and the clinicians who treat them. This research demonstrates why the current system is not fit for purpose. It also goes a long way to explaining why NICE has decided that so many innovative medicines are not cost effective, putting clinical practice in the UK out of step with that in other countries. We have been making assessments based on a flawed approach and it shows.

The research also demonstrates why it is so important that we get on with the job of developing value based pricing within a framework which provides stability and predictability for the NHS and industry as well as –most importantly – access to the most effective medicines for patients. 

The idea that we need to more accurately reflect value is something that most people can sign up to – probably even more so as a result of today’s research – but it will be the detail that will make or break the policy. To date, that detail has been conspicuous by its absence. That is why I am pleased to be able to report that the Department of Health has now agreed to begin discussions in earnest about how we make this work for patients, the NHS and industry.

Getting this right will not be simple. If it was, it would have happened before.  We are going to need to get lots of different perspectives – particularly from patients and the charities who support them.  I look forward to hearing their views as we take this forward.

You can read the statement that ABPI has agreed with the Department of Health here.

Stephen Whitehead
ABPI Chief Executive

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