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NHS under pressure to provide life-prolonging drugs

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The NHS is under pressure from patients, clinicians and the media to provide expensive life-prolonging drugs to terminally ill cancer patients, according to the latest issue of Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin.

A discussion in Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin calls for a more ‘extensive and balanced consultation’ process with the public and healthcare professionals about making decisions on how funding is allocated in end of life care.

NICE’s new policy allowing provision of end-of-life drugs in NHS England and Wales if the estimated quality-adjusted life-years threshold is higher than £30,000 and a set of other conditions has given pharmaceutical companies ‘little incentive’ to lower prices, the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin argues.

A person must also be unlikely to live longer than 24 months, the drug must extend life by at least three months, no alternative treatment should be available and the treatment should be licensed for small populations of patients.

The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin states: ‘Another aspect of this policy is that it gives drug companies little incentive to reduce the prices of these expensive treatments (outside somewhat questionable patent access schemes).

‘They realise that, in the face of understandable pressure from patient support groups, the media and clinicians, it is now even less likely that the NHS will decline to pay their asking prices.’

Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (2009) 47:61

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