Are modern cancer drugs worth the money?

August 7, 2008

herceptin.jpgWhat price a longer life?

Britain’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) reckons four new drugs for kidney cancer are not cost effective, even though they may extend patients’ lives by several months.

The complex calculations used by the watchdog show the drugs, which can cost over 30,000 pounds per patient a year, are just too expensive, given the limited benefits they provide.

NICE estimates using the medicines would cost between 71,500 and 171,300 pounds for every year of healthy life gained.

NICE argues it has to make hard choices about rationing healthcare if other areas are not to suffer; that’s what an equitable health service is all about.

But the preliminary recommendation, which is subject to appeal, has been slammed as a death sentence by some cancer charities.

Drugmakers, too, are concerned — especially as more governments look admiringly at the work of NICE.

Scientific advances and huge unmet medical need make cancer care the area of fastest growth for drug manufacturers. But while uptake has been fast in the United States, Europe is proving a harder market to crack.

Ultimately, it is for society to decide what it is ready to spend on medicines. The question is: where should the bar be set?


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Provision of “free” health services is a bottomless pit, as research is constantly identifying new and costly ways of treating existing or previously obscure conditions that would previously have been regarded as untreatable. The NHS is a cash machine for the drug companies.

Not to mention the costs of NHS mis-management and health tourism that drain the resources which should go to the people who have paid for them through their taxes.

Given that we are stuck with the NHS, we are also stuck with NICE which makes the decisions on where to draw the line on the cost of treatments. It’s a pity we don’t also have a similar organisation to draw the line on who gets the “free” treatment which is currently so readily handed out to anyone who walks through the door.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

At some point, we all have to die. How many old people shuffle around from one doctor’s appointment to the next? Or the dominate focus of their conversations is all their health problems? We’re not all going to live to be 95 and those that sometimes try end up looking like the living dead.

Our society has a problem with dying, and its breaking our wallets, too. Spending $200,000 (rather, having someone else pay that amount) to extend one’s like 2-3 months doesn’t seem uber efficient. Live your life to the fullest now, so that when the time comes, you don’t have regrets and aren’t afraid to ‘see the light’

Posted by tom | Report as abusive

Yet the government can find £53 Billion to prop up an aling bank, how about let the bank collapse and spend that money on saving lives and giving people a few more years with thier loved ones.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive