Azara Blog: NICE throws more money at drugs for terminally ill patients

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Date published: 2009/01/02

The BBC says:

Drugs which give terminally ill patients a few extra months to live have a better chance of being approved on the NHS under new rules.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to extend the threshold at which the drugs are deemed cost-effective.
Any treatment to meet the criteria must be for patients with a short life expectancy, normally less than 24 months.

There must be sufficient evidence that does extend life, usually at least an additional three months, compared with current NHS treatment.

And it must have a cost-effectiveness ratio higher than the £30,000 cut-off normally used by NICE to determine good use of NHS resources.

There must also be no alternative treatments with similar benefits available on the NHS.

This story illustrates perfectly what is wrong with the way these decisions are made. So there is only discussion of quantity of life, not quality of life, or how old you are, etc. So if you have, say, six months to live, and some drug will extend that another three months at great expense, then the State needs to very seriously consider whether that drug will at least actually make you feel considerably better for those nine months. And while you can understand that the State might consider it worthwhile for someone who has family responsibilities to have an extra three months (assuming being healthy enough), should the State really be forking over tens of thousands of pounds to make sure that someone who is, say, 80, makes it to 80.3 or even 80.5? There have got to be better ways to spend the NHS budget, for example, making the end of one's life a lot less painful.

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