Are modern cancer drugs worth the money?
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?