Don’t Get Kidney Cancer in Great Britain

There are drugs to treat the disease, and they are available in America.  But the National Health Service won’t pay for them.  Writes Jonathan Waxman in the Times of London:

But there are areas of healthcare where things have gone badly wrong, where wrong meets bad, becomes worse, and then spirals to appalling, and these areas are approached through the bloodstained portals of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

This week’s NICE announcement on treating kidney cancer, a preliminary opinion about the value of new drugs, has sent doctors into apoplexy. Kidney cancer affects approximately 7,500 people in the UK each year, and there are 2,500 deaths. We have recently begun to understand the molecular biology of kidney cancer, and to know of its specific characteristics. Understanding these characteristics allows us to design treatments that exploit the differences between kidney cancer cells and normal cells. As a result, we have wonderful new treatments that double life expectancy in this condition.

NICE has evaluated these four new drugs for kidney cancer and indicated that these drugs will not be recommended for use in patients. This is against all sense, and contrary to the situation in the rest of Europe and in the United States, where these drugs are available. NICE has made its decision on the basis of an arcane and extraordinarily complex calculation which relates the benefit of treatment with these new drugs to a treatment that is comparatively ineffective.

But at least all Britons are equal.  Everyone is at risk of being denied necessary, life-saving treatment!