Rationing Cancer Drugs in Britain

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY)’s Yervoy drug was rejected by the U.K.’s health-cost agency, which suggested the company consider lowering the price of the skin- cancer treatment. About 30 percent of patients treated with the drug would have improved survival, with 10 percent potentially experiencing long-term benefits, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in a statement today, citing clinical specialists… The drug costs about 80,000 pounds ($125,600) per patient.


Comments (5)

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  1. Buster says:

    This decision suggests some of the costly new drugs buy time but don’t necessarily improve survival. I find this hard to understand. I read an article in JAMA discussing a controversy about whether months of survival or months of progression-free survival should be used as a benchmark when approving new cancer drugs. Apparently, progression-free survival is hard to measure but makes a drug look more effective.

    I also read a New York Times commentary by Zeke Emanuel, former White House health advisor, on how some of the older, generic oncology drugs — claiming many of them are both cheap and curative. Some of these are in short supply because there just isn’t enough money in manufacturing them. In many cases, the older drugs in short supply are being replaced with newer drugs that only he claimed only extend life a short while and cost 100s of times more. It sounded as though the older drugs are sometime more effective than new drugs. Again, this sounds odd.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    When socialized medicine is free at the point of service and paid for with tax dollars, there always has to be some sort of rationing mechanism. That is the trade-off people get when they turn over the decisions to government — an unelected bureaucracy decides which therapies to pay for.

  3. Carol Morrisey says:

    The medical establishment needs a more open mind. I just read, from an alternative health source, that a paste of powdered vitamin C can cure many skin cancers in a few weeks with no side effects, costing just pennies. If treatments like these became standard, we could save lives and huge amounts of money, with less suffering from side effects. Get with it, doctors!

  4. John R. Graham says:

    Buster, there should be no controversy. If health plan A offers to cover any new drug with evidence of X months of survival, and health plan B offers to cover any new drug with evidence of X months of progression-free survival, one can reasonably expect that premiums for health plan A will be higher than premiums for health plan B. Let each patient decide which one he wants. In a market of individual health insurance, health plans would communicate these differences to the public very clearly.

  5. Ldao says:

    Carol: Well if powdered vitamin C can cure many skin cancers you don’t even need a doctor, just buy some vitamin C tablets crush them up and add some water, voila a paste.