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Increasing use of a new health technology during the wait for NICE guidance: Findings from the third national tracker survey of photodynamic therapy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robbie Foy


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Background: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a relatively new treatment for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Trial evidence suggests that repeated treatments with PDT can decrease the relative risk of a reduction in visual acuity over 2 years. Concerns raised over the clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment prompted a technology appraisal by the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE). Difficulties in assessing the possible benefit or otherwise of PDT have led to delays in the publication of guidance. During this time the introduction of PDT into the UK National Health Service (NHS) has continued. Over three annual tracker surveys, we describe trends in the provision of PDT in the NHS and potential difficulties in the implementation of NICE guidance. Methods: We undertook surveys in each October of 2000, 2001 and 2002 of clinical directors or lead consultants in all NHS eye units. These sought data on which (if any) patients were referred or treated with PDT and the thresholds of support for the use of PDT. Results: Response rates were 82 per cent, 79 per cent and 82 percent. The proportion of units routinely providing PDT for patients with more than 50 per cent classic sub-foveal CNV increased from 8.5 per cent in 2000 to 31 per cent in 2002 (p <0.001). Units referring or treating no patients decreased from 35 per cent to 10 per cent between 2000 and 2002 (p <0.001). There was a significant fall in the proportion of units changing policies on provision between 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. The proportion of respondents requiring further evidence before supporting the use of PDT decreased from 33 per cent in 2000 to 20 per cent in 2002. Conclusions: There is evidence of a continuing growth in access to PDT in the absence of NICE guidance. Although 90 per cent of units offer some pathway to treatment important variations in reported provision remain. Given that PDT services are becoming established, there is a risk that clinical policy is determined by local service development as much as by national guidance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Foot B, Foy R, Chakravarthy U, Wormald R

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Public Health

Year: 2004

Volume: 26

Issue: 1

Pages: 52-55

ISSN (print): 1741-3842

ISSN (electronic): 1741-3850


DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdh112

PubMed id: 15044575