September 9, 2008

High-Cost Cancer Drugs ‘Too Much for NHS’

By Jane Kirby

THE high cost of cancer drugs could lead the NHS into "meltdown", a leading expert said today.

Professor Karol Sikor a said the next generation of drugs would keep people alive for longer but they were so expensive they could swallow half of the current NHS budget within four years.

He calculated they could cost the NHS pounds 50bn - around half the current budget, which tops pounds 100bn.

The professor, who is director of Cancer Partners UK, a private provider of cancer services that works with the NHS, came up with the figures for Sky News.

He said: "pounds 50bn is the equivalent to raising tax by 15p for everybody. That's the bottom line.

"The calculations I've done for Sky News show a pretty bleak picture unless we have drastic change.

"The NHS is going to face meltdown just because of one disease, so we're going to have to restructure things for the future, look at new ways of bringing money into the health service, and that is a huge political challenge."

The chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), Sir Michael Rawlins, said Nice is unfairly seen as nasty.

It has come in for repeated criticism in recent months over its decisions on a range of drugs.

Last month, it ruled against allowing four kidney cancer drugs for use on the NHS saying they were too expensive.

The medicines do not cure the disease, but offer most patients a few extra months of life.

"Rationing is a necessary evil," Sir Michael said.

"We have to do it.

"There will be losers and winners.

"And the loser will always think they have been badly treated.

"And I am sorry about that.

But we can never get round that.

"There will always be some people who are disappointed.

"A drug may give you the opportunity to go to a wedding or a birthday party.

"I understand that.

"But the problem is that some of these drugs are very expensive.

"There is a finite pot of money and it is a matter of how we divide it up in the fairest possible way."

(c) 2008 Western Mail. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.