Rationing decisions in health care, when will America grow up?

18 Oct

Read the following excerpt from Bloomberg carefully.

Making a quick judgement as to whether this is good or bad, right or wrong is risky. These are the type of decisions any society must make in order to balance the needs of all citizens with affordability. In fact, these are exactly the type of decisions America must make, but is America ready? So far we can’t handle revised guidelines on routine screenings, we think birth control should be “free” and that nobody should interfere between a patient and doctor. Try this objective approach in America and you get cries of “death panels.”

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) — Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy drug was rejected by the U.K.’s health-cost agency, which suggested the company consider lowering the price of the skin- cancer treatment.

About 30 percent of patients treated with the drug would have improved survival, with 10 percent potentially experiencing long-term benefits, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in a statement today, citing clinical specialists.

The drug costs about 80,000 pounds ($125,600) per patient, said the agency, known as NICE, which advises the National Health Service on whether drugs provide value for money. Yervoy is the first medicine proven to extend the lives of patients with advanced melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

“On the basis of evidence provided so far, ipilimumab could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources,” NICE Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dillon said in the statement. There’s no way to identify which patients will benefit from the drug, he said.

We will have real reform in America when we can deal with these issues and when we figure out how much such a drug should really cost to give everyone a fair return. In the US when such a drug wins FDA approval it is virtually automatic that it is covered by prescription drug and health plans, no questions asked, no questions about the cost. For now many Americans cannot even deal with the Independent Payment Advisory Board designed to recommend cost savings for Medicare.

Exactly how do Americans expect to make health care affordable or perhaps as I have long contended, nobody really cares.

Oh, one more thing. If the price of this drug is lowered in the UK to obtain approval, guess who will pay more to make up the difference?

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