Originally Posted by Punjabi
Home of TRUE democracy...........the UK! God Bless!
Oh Yes sounds like true democracy to me......as long as you don't get sick
Playing God,' U.K. Denies Cancer Drugs, Patients Say
May 17 (Bloomberg) -- After Barry Robinson's bowel cancer spread to his lungs in January, doctors told the U.K. resident his life might be extended with ImClone Systems Inc.'s Erbitux.
Britain's National Health Service has refused to pay for the treatment, leaving the 60-year-old retired soldier to raise 20,000 pounds ($39,500) to purchase the drug. A U.K. agency ruled in January that the cost outweighed its benefits. Erbitux is the seventh cancer medicine the advisory panel has decided is too expensive in the past year.
The agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, is facing growing criticism over rulings that affect how the NHS spends its 12 billion-pound annual drug budget. Patients, doctors and drugmakers, such as Eli Lilly & Co. and Merck KGaA, say NICE decisions are shortening lives of those who can't afford therapies available elsewhere in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.
``They're really playing God,'' Robinson said in an interview. ``What are they saying? We've got a new drug, but you can't have it? Go away and die?''
The U.K. government, like counterparts in the U.S. and Germany, is under pressure to slow pharmaceutical spending and keep down deficits as more costly medicines reach the market and people live longer. U.S. insurers consult panels to decide whether new drugs are cost effective. Germany also reviews the benefits of medicines to restrain costs.
The NHS, with a total budget of 78 billion pounds ($154 billion), ran a deficit of 547 million pounds in the year ended April 5, 2006. The deficit may grow to about 11 billion pounds, or 10 percent of the budget, by 2015, according to NERA Economic Consulting, a London-based firm that advises governments and companies.
About half of the new drugs that pharmaceutical companies are developing are for cancer, Mike Richards, the U.K.'s national cancer director, told members of parliament at an inquiry today.
``Clearly this puts pressure on budgets,'' Richards said.
Access to cancer treatments was ``low and slow'' in the U.K., New Zealand, Poland, Czech Republic, and South Africa, according to a study published May 10 by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The research was funded by Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG, the world's biggest maker of cancer medicines.
The review by NICE slows the process and patients in the U.K. have a lower chance of survival than those in the U.S. or France, where new treatments are more accessible, researchers said in a report published in the Annals of Oncology earlier this month.
``We have to make choices about what we do,'' NICE Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dillon said in an interview. ``Once you start doing that, especially in a field like health, which is so sensitive, it inevitably attracts enormous publicity.''
At the inquiry, the U.K. House of Commons Health Select Committee questioned officials from the agency and the Department of Health about the evaluation process, the pace of decisions and the increasing complaints.
``There is a skepticism that decisions are financially based rather than medical evidence based,'' Sandra Gidley, a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on health and committee member, said in a telephone interview.
NICE has backed 35 of 39 cancer treatments since its founding in 1999, Dillon said. Since September, the agency has rejected Erbitux and Roche's Avastin for advanced bowel cancer, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Taxol for early breast cancer and Bayer AG's Fludara for a type of leukemia.
The agency also has issued preliminary opinions that the NHS shouldn't fund Erbitux for head and neck cancer, Eli Lilly & Co.'s Alimta for advanced lung cancer, Roche's Tarceva for advanced lung cancer and Johnson & Johnson's Velcade for multiple myeloma.
NICE also declined to recommend that the NHS pay for Aricept, an Alzheimer's disease drug from Pfizer Inc. and Eisai Co. The medicine is Eisai's biggest seller, generating about $2 billion in revenue for the Tokyo-based drugmaker.
A U.K. High Court will review the Aricept decision next month after Pfizer and Eisai filed the first such legal challenge to the agency. The companies complain that NICE made an ``irrational'' decision, refused to disclose the financial model used to weigh the drug's costs and benefits and used an unreliable method of measuring patients' mental states.
``Eighty-six points of appeal were made by five separate appellants and every single one of them was thrown out,'' Paul Hooper, Eisai's U.K. managing director, said in a telephone interview. ``I just think it was unreasonable.''
The Alzheimer's Society said NICE didn't fully consider the costs that families incur in caring for people with the disease. In November, relatives and supporters of Alzheimer's patients protested NICE's decision in more than 30 cities and towns in the U.K., including Liverpool, London and Manchester.
``We have followed our processes,'' Dillon said.
The NHS funds some treatments that NICE doesn't recommend. Lundbeck's Ebixa for mild Alzheimer's disease is routinely provided by some regional NHS authorities, company spokeswoman Jenny Harte said.
Karol Sikora, a cancer doctor at Hammersmith Hospital in London, contacted one local health authority on behalf of a retired colleague who has advanced lung cancer and wanted Tarceva, which NICE said in March the NHS shouldn't fund.
``I called up and I just groveled and said there's good evidence,'' Sikora said. ``They said, `OK, he can have the drug, but don't tell anyone about it.' They didn't want other doctors to know they were doing it.''
Robinson, the retired soldier, is seeking other bowel- cancer patients who previously received Erbitux from the NHS. Peter Telford, a lawyer, volunteered to help 25 bowel cancer patients petition the NHS. He said some of the eight people who have won appeals have received Erbitux, which is marketed in Europe by Germany's Merck.
Robinson plans to use the information in asking regional health authorities in Dagenham, England to ignore NICE's ruling. If that fails, he has raised 2,000 pounds from his rugby club and friends and may sell his house. He prefers the NHS to fund the treatment.
``I just feel so let down that all these years I've paid into the system, been a model citizen and as soon as I want something, I have to pay for it,'' Robinson said.