BMJ Technology Assessment Group (BMJ-TAG)

BMJ-TAG aids the UK’s NHS by researching new drugs to determine their suitability for patient use, contributing to policy development, and enabling access to essential medicines, thereby revolutionising patient treatment through independent assessments and health economic analyses.

Providing expert methodological advice to the UK’s National Health Service

BMJ-TAG conducts health research on new drugs to establish whether they should be available to patients on the NHS.

Our team of highly skilled clinical evidence analysts and health economists have specialist expertise in:

  • Literature reviews and evidence synthesis;
  • Health technology assessment statistics, including network meta-analysis and survival analysis, and
  • Health economic modelling

BMJ-TAG’s research has enabled the following positive results

  • 16,000 patients have benefited from improved outcomes as a direct result of research conducted by BMJ-TAG
  • BMJ-TAG contributed to 12 policy docs in 2022, which affected the lives of an estimated 235K patients.
  • Our work has led to 3,000 more women each year having access to cancer-preventative medicine.

Our research supports the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and other policymakers in the UK to improve health outcomes. 

Through rigorous independent research, we evaluate the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of:

  • novel medicines
  • cutting-edge devices
  • diagnostic tests 

We can then recommend whether or not to use them in NHS treatments.

Most of our work is for Single Technology Appraisals (STAs), where we provide an independent report of health technologies for use in the NHS. These reports may use evidence a pharmaceutical company, various stakeholders and other published information.

Our reports help NICE Appraisal Committees make informed recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care

Funding for our expertise stems from the work we do for NICE as part of the Technology Assessment Review (TAR) programme. The TAR programme is managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Evidence Synthesis Programme through their Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC)

Examples of our research work

Fast-track technology appraisals (FTA)

Betrixaban for preventing venous thromboembolism in people hospitalised for acute medical conditions [ID913]

Highly specialised technology appraisals (HST)

Human alpha1-proteinase inhibitor for treating emphysema [ID856]

Diagnostics assessment reviews (DAR)

Reveal LINQ insertable cardiac monitor to detect atrial fibrillation after cryptogenic stroke

Multiple technology appraisals (MTA)

Topotecan, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin hydrochloride, paclitaxel, trabectedin, and gemcitabine for treating recurrent ovarian cancer

Commissioned critical appraisals

Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) has commissioned BMJ-TAG since 2019 to undertake critical appraisals of the health economic analysis provided by companies in their submissions to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

Guidance forms

All projects completed by BMJ-TAG are published on the NICE website and in the NIHR Journals Library.

Our story

Our work has revolutionised the treatment of patients by the UK’s NHS

In 2021, we independently assessed the use of new treatments for ovarian cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Our independent assessment approved the use of niraparib for ovarian cancer by the eligible population in England, and NICE subsequently recommended it.

In April 2022, following another TAG independent assessment, elosulfase alfa was approved for NHS use by NICE to treat mucopolysaccharidosis Type IV A (MPS IVA). We expect this to start in children from around three years old and will be lifelong. Left untreated, MPS IVA can cause skeletal abnormalities, respiratory symptoms, pain, fatigue, and reduced life expectancy.

The Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases (MPS Society) considers elosulfase alfa to be ‘life-changing,’ with one parent reporting that:

“My son Sam has been receiving Vimizim [elosulfase alfa] for almost ten years. He does not suffer from fatigue. He does not routinely have any pain. He is 13 [now] but is still very mobile and independent. Vimizim has had an incredible impact on his life, his quality of life, and his independence.”

Elosulfase alfa is likely to slow disease progression and delay the onset of symptoms. It also improves children’s quality of life by preserving lung function and improving endurance. However, it is still highly uncertain if it extends life compared to non-treatment.

The company offered a substantial discount on the drug’s retail price, resulting in a significant cost saving for the NHS.

This year’s work has included several ‘me too’ drugs
These drugs are as safe and effective as other NHS options but cost less. Their value lies in the savings achieved for the taxpayer. Our team independently assessed two new treatments for diabetic macular oedema (dexamethasone and brolucizumab), a condition that can cause blindness.

BMJ-TAG is also called on to conduct its own research
This may occur when several new options need to be compared with current practice. This year, BMJ-TAG looked at three treatments for severe atopic dermatitis in adolescents and adults. As a result of our work, all three were approved.

“These new treatment options offer hope to patients who have exhausted all available treatments and have the potential to improve a patient’s quality of life.”

The Eczema Outreach Support group

Patient groups commenting on the appraisal highlighted the debilitating nature of severe atopic dermatitis. The condition goes beyond uncontrollable and persistent itching and can have detrimental effects on a person’s mental health and self-confidence.