For the first time, it has been announced that NICE will begin to publish assessments of medicines before they are licensed for use in the UK.

Hitherto, NICE has only assessed drugs within their licensed indications but this latest move is part of the Institute's broader programme of trying to speed up access to new drugs.

Already, NICE has produced several evidence summaries for new medicines in a bid to provide commissioners with useful input into the planning process. Obviously these summaries do not constitute formal NICE guidance but, as a critical review of the evidential strengths and weaknesses of a drug at the time of launch or shortly after, they - along with the recent announcement - signify a sea change in NICE's role, from ex post facto evaluation to something much more proactive.