Maintaining Clinical Freedom Whilst Achieving Value in Biologics Prescribing: An Integrated Cross-Specialty Consensus of UK Dermatologists, Rheumatologists and Gastroenterologists

Tim Raine*, Maria Angeliki Gkini, Peter M. Irving, Arvind Kaul, Eleanor Korendowych, Philip Laws, Amy C. Foulkes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Biologics are now key drugs in the management of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases. However, the increasingly complex biologics environment and growing cost pressures in the UK have led to variability in drug commissioning and inequity of patient access across regions. Objectives: Our objectives were to provide consensus recommendations for enhancing the current situation in biologic prescribing in the UK by balancing clinical freedom with equitable distribution of biologics given the limited availability of resources. Methods: A modified Delphi approach was used to reach integrated, cross-specialty consensus among dermatologists, rheumatologists and gastroenterologists practising within the English National Health Service (NHS). Results: We describe the concepts of clinical freedom and clinical judgement and demonstrate how, together with patient choice, they can be exercised in the context of biologic prescribing in the NHS. We highlight that in England, local variations occur that are at odds with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance; these variably limit the degree to which clinicians can exercise clinical freedom and impact on equity of patient access to treatments. We define factors encompassing a drug’s value and identify challenges to the measurement and interpretation of this concept, which can raise barriers to the freedom of clinical choice and appropriate prescribing decisions allowing practices of holistic and personalised medicine. Cross-specialty consensus recommendations on ensuring equitable access to biologics in the NHS while protecting appropriate and individualised drug selection for patients are provided. We have also provided strategies for improving physician–commissioner communication to harmonise equity of patient access to biologics across England and improve patient outcomes. Commentary from patient advisory groups indicates that they welcome our exploration that value does not equal cost and agree that there should be an emphasis on shared decision making, which requires the clinician to practice clinical freedom by aligning the patient’s needs and preferences with available treatment choices. Conclusions: This consensus highlights the need to strike a balance between clinical freedom and short-term cost restrictions to support equitable resource distribution within the English NHS. Consideration of these recommendations may help to harmonise local, regional and national services and balance equity of patient access to biologic treatments with excellence in the NHS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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