Which drugs should be available on the NHS?

Hearing stories about patients being denied access to drugs for certain conditions is becoming alarmingly frequent. Once the emotive aspects of each individual story have been splashed across the news, the issue of why the drugs are not available on the NHS is usually given some attention.

The fundamental problem is not the effectiveness of NICE, the organisation responsible for deciding which drugs are available.  NICE must balance the cost-effectiveness of providing treatments, which will inevitably lead to many drugs being turned down.  The real problem is the nature of centrally-run and centrally-funded healthcare systems. Cost-effectiveness is not discussed in other countries such as the USA, where competing healthcare providers view offering a range of treatments as a way of attracting customers and will therefore seek out innovative drug therapies without the need for government intervention. Almost every major Western nation apart from the UK has a competitive healthcare market of sorts (normally funded by the government but run by independent firms) and newspaper headlines about patients being denied their chosen treatment will continue indefinitely unless our whole healthcare system moves towards a more competitive model and the government's hands are taken off the steering wheel of the NHS.

Tom Richmond

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