September 9, 2008

Drug Prices ‘May Break Health Service’

Professor Karol Sikora 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 50bn around half the current budget, which tops 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: "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 re- structure 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, told the channel that 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 out 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."

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