O’Neill launches consultation on funding for specialist drugs

Date published: 25 January 2017


Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today launched a consultation on a reformed Individual Funding Request (IFR) policy for access to specialist drugs.

The IFR process provides access to high cost specialist drugs where there is an agreed clinical need but where the drugs are not fully approved for routine use by NICE .  

The consultation on the new proposed policy comes as a result of an evaluation of the IFR process which found that the existing exceptionality criteria should be amended to remove the reference to 95%; the establishment of regional scrutiny committee should be considered to ensure all IFR applications are subject to regionally consistent clinical input which includes peer review and that the existing IFR guidance should be revised to include greater transparency.

Commenting on the proposed policy, the Minister said: “I understand how important it is that patients should have access to the drugs they need, however we also need to be aware that increasing access to unapproved specialist drugs will carry significant costs at a time when the Health and Social Care budget is facing real pressures.

“I welcome everyone’s view on the proposed reformed IFR process, which I hope will strike the right balance by putting clinical expertise at the centre of this decision making process.”

Michelle O’Neill added:  “The outcome of the evaluation showed that members of the public were often unclear about the purpose of the IFR process and of how it worked in practice. I hope the new draft guidance, published for consultation today, will help to provide a clearer, more user friendly explanation of the process.”

While the draft policy document and service user guide are out for consultation, the Department of Health will be progressing work to establish the Regional Scrutiny Committee which will be the new body responsible for making recommendations on Individual Funding Requests.

The consultation process opened today and will run until 7 April 2017. The consultation can be accessed online

Notes to editors: 

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