Source: The Telegraph
19 Jan 2015
The NHS has faced criticism for intervening to delay the introduction of a costly but highly effective drug to combat hepatitis C
The NHS in England has made an unprecedented move to delay the introduction of a £660-a-day drug that could cure people with hepatitis C.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has approved the sofosbuvir on the grounds that it is a cost effective way to save the lives of people who would otherwise run up huge medical bills.
One in three hepatitis C sufferers will develop liver cirrhosis, leading to the need for a £50,000 live transfer, while others will get cancer.
But NHS England are understood to have delayed the introduction of the drug on the grounds that it will cost £1bn for every 20,000 treated. There are around 160,000 people in Britain with the disease, the Guardian reported.
Chief of executive of the Hepatitis C trust said: “It feels to me as if a whole new criterion has been invented by the backdoor. It is undoubtedly a high cost. The unfortunate thing is there are an awful lot of people who need it.
“We’re talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of people. That becomes a massive budget-buster.”
“Sofosbuvir has been hailed internationally as a miracle drug though worries about the high price tag are not unique to the UK.”
The price given by the manufacturer to the NHS is around £35,000 for a 3 months course of treatment although many patients will need a 24-week course, costing £70,000.
Nice has said that the NHS in England will be able to postpone implementation of the drug for four months, until the end of July – not the original April target.
Indian regulators meanwhile refused to grant the drug’s manufacturer a patent meaning that cheap generic versions could soon come to market.
The disclosure comes just days after the NHS announced plans to stop funding 25 treatments for cancer, including those for breast, prostate and bowel disease.
The NHS declined to comment.