The Socialist 2 September 2008 |
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Swollen profits, suffering patients
TWENTY SIX top cancer consultants wrote to the Sunday Times, attacking the government's health watchdog NICE for denying seriously ill patients with diseased kidneys, four life-extending cancer drugs on cost grounds.
To meet the £500 a week cost of these drugs, cancer sufferers are forced into "remortgaging houses, giving up pensions and selling cars to buy drugs that are freely available in countries of comparable wealth.... NICE's cost-effectiveness formulas are not suitable for this area of medicine."
In defending his agency, NICE chair Michael Rawlins attacked the pharmaceutical giants for driving up the price of life-saving new medicines to boost profits. Drug companies push up the cost, he said, to cushion themselves against the fact that many of their big earners are going off patent, allowing rivals to make cheaper versions.
"Pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed double-digit growth year on year and they are out to sustain that. Their senior management's earnings are related to the share price. It's not in their interests to take less profit, personally or from the point of view of the business. All these perverse incentives drive the price up."
All true and an amazing attack on 'Big Pharma's swollen profits from a leading health service figure - but it doesn't alter the fact that Rawlins is defending the indefensible, the rationing of health care for the sick.
'Save our NHS' campaigners should say no to rationing. The only sure way for the NHS to get cheaper drugs is by bringing the whole pharmaceutical industry into democratic public ownership and creating an integrated and fully funded, free health service as part of a socialist plan of production.