Charities say that as many as 16,000 UK patients have been denied drugs that could extend their lives because the treatments have not been judged to be cost-effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). ASDA claims that it can sell Iressa, the lung cancer drug, for £2,168 for a pack of 30, cheaper than Boots and Superdrug. ASDA will also sell the leukaemia drug Glivec, and Nexavar, for kidney and liver cancer, undercutting its rivals in both cases. The disparity in pharmacy mark-ups between north and south would certainly have people flocking north to buy medicines…but only if the products they needed weren’t covered by the High Tech Scheme. So this isn’t going to be yet another windfall for ASDA’s massively profitable Northern Ireland operations just yet.
Staying on the medicines access issue, you may remember that Take Two previously reported how the Conservatives planned to make more expensive medical treatments available on the NHS if they were successful in the 2010 general Election. David Cameron and his party may just have crawled across winning line – with the help of the Liberal Democrats. But yesterday the new administration revealed it would be full steam ahead on improving patient access to those costly meds. The initiative has apparently made it into the coalition manifesto agreed by the new political bedfellows. Will this involve trimming NICE’s remit? And from where will funds for this measure be sourced? Watch this space.