Tributes as former NICE, MHRA chair Sir Mike Rawlins dies


The UK healthcare sector is mourning one of the most eminent of its figures in the last few decades – Professor Sir Mike Rawlins – who has passed away at the age of 81.

A pharmacologist by training, Rawlins was the founding chairman of health technology assessment (HTA) agency NICE, leading the organisation from its inception in 1999 until 2013, and hired Sir Andrew Dillon to become the organisation's founding chief executive.

After passing on the reins of NICE, he was appointed chair of the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), heading up the agency for two 3-year terms between 2014 and 2020.

In an illustrious career, he also served as president of the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) from 2012 to 2014, as well as chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (1992-1998), chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (1998-2008), and chairman of UK Biobank (2012-2019), and was also appointed honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and emeritus professor at Newcastle University.

Dillon said in a statement that Rawlins was "an inspirational leader and always loyal and supportive to those around him. He guided and protected NICE throughout his tenure as chair and ensured its survival in its early, vulnerable years."

Current RSM president Professor Roger Kirby said the organisation was "so sad to convey the news of the passing of our much loved and respected colleague," adding that Rawlins was "a medical hero, amazing academic, and fantastic character – his loss will be deeply felt throughout the medical and scientific communities he served during his distinguished career."

Rawlins was knighted in the 1999 Queen's New Year Honours for services to the improvement of patient protection from the side effects of medicines, and in 2017 was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) for services to the safety of medicines, healthcare, and innovation.

The drug sector also paid tribute, with Dr Richard Torbett, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), tweeting that Rawlins was "a great leader who has left a lasting impact on healthcare through his work at NICE, MHRA, and the NHS."