Saturday, November 25, 2006

Herceptin funding

As we all remember, there was no increase in funding to accompany the use of the latest 'wonder' drug Herceptin. Yesterday's reports on the BBC website talks about how Herceptin is draining money from other types of care - hardly surprising if there was no extra cash!

Its use in Norwich will take £1.9 million from other areas of cancer care - either 75 people could receive Herceptin or 355 could get post surgery care or 200 other chemotherapy.

So what is the answer? It's two fold...

1. Big pharma make huge profits, recouping the cost of research in the price of the new medicines. Many of the new medicines are little better than the ones they replace, yet cost more and make big profits. Prices for medicines should be set by the state, and research into new medicines should be directed by the state (or even done by the state). No-one should profit from health care - the only people to benefit from health care should be patients.

2. Government must learn that if it doesn't fund health care properly then things go wrong! Rosie Winterton's suggestion that "PCTs should always be planning ahead and we would expect them to consider the implications of introducing all drugs on the horizon" is sheer stupidity in this context. With the best planning in the world, expecting more and more health care to be funded from a finite budget is simply not possible.

On the second point there are parallels with most governments economic policies: they want continued growth and consumption in a finite world. Again this is frankly stupid and impossible.


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