Between 16,000 and 20,000 cancer sufferers have been denied the use of ten drugs commonly used in Europe and the USA, and often acceptable to health insurers, simply to save money.
This comes, not as you would expect from a politician trying to make a pre-election point, but from an independent campaign group.
According to a report by the Rarer Cancers Forum, delays by NICE – taking 21 months to develop guidance on cancer treatments, although the Government target is within six months of a drug being licensed - and refusal to approve new cancer drugs – has cost thousands of lives of people who could have been treated.
In theory, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has a main aim of approving or otherwise new drugs that the NHS can use. In practice, says RCF’s Andrew Wilson-Webb, "The cancer community is of the opinion that NICE now is nothing more than a rationing body for the NHS, which is not what it was set up for. It is unacceptable that many thousands of patients are still missing out on the treatment they need, and which their doctors want to give them, because NICE has decided that their treatment does not meet some arbitrary criteria."
Some private medical insurers allow access to drugs not approved for use on the NHS as a benefit of taking out insurance.
Private medical insurance: News update: 16 March 2010