Nice eases cancer drug rationing

Terminal patients can have treatment to prolong lives
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The Independent Online

People with some types of terminal cancer are to be given access to previously rationed treatments that could prolong their lives, the NHS drugs watchdog has announced.

Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, said new guidelines to be published next week would extend the range of cancer treatments available on the NHS. Nice has come under fire for refusing to allow some cancer treatments – which can extend the lives of sufferers for weeks or months – on the grounds that they are not cost-effective.

Sir Michael said that Nice had been consulting on proposals which recognised the importance people attached to the extra time such drugs could give them. "We appreciate these extra weeks and months can be very special," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "We are proposing to provide our advisory bodies with supplementary advice in these sort of circumstances which will have the effect of extending the threshold range of what we would normally regard as being cost-effective."

He said that the new guidance, which will be issued on 2 January with immediate effect, would concentrate on treatments for less common cancers. Sir Michael warned that some drugs would remain unaffordable. "We are not proposing to extend this to all conditions. Frankly, it would cost the health service hundreds of millions of pounds if we were to do that," he said.

Sir Michael also said that the agency was working to speed up the process by which drugs will be assessed for use within the NHS.