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Health Insight March 2001: NICE news
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The government has referred further new treatments for the consideration of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). This is the fifth 'work programme' for NICE, since it was launched last year. Drugs for leukaemia, ovarian cancer and heart attacks have been included on the list. Also to be reviewed are surgical treatments for obesity and computerised behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety.

The controversy over the anti-flu drug Relenza (zanamivir) continues. NICE recommends the drug as a useful treatment for those at risk of flu complications, if it can be started within forty-eight hours of the onset of symptoms. The Drug & Therapeutics Bulletin has repeated its own view that there is no evidence that Relenza is any better at relieving symptoms than paracetamol or ibuprofen and, even it did reduce the duration of symptoms by one day, as has been claimed, this does not justify the expense. And another drug on which NICE has ruled remains very much in the news. NICE says that Viagra (sildenafil) can be used to treat erectile dysfunction where this is the result of an underlying medical condition, but not when the problem is of psychological origin. A coalition of doctors and patients, involving the BMA, the Men's Health Forum and the Doctor Patient Partnership has now called on the government to remove this restriction.

Press release (DoH)
BMJ 17 February

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