English eyes are smiling?

Some good news, first: those nice people at, erm, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellency) have reversed their position on the sight drug Lucentis. Patients with age-related macular degeneration will now be able to receive the drug from the NHS on diagnosis, rather than having to wait until they are blind in one eye.

The Lucentis saga might not have happened if we had a) an English parliament controlling the NHS and b) public ownership of the pharmaceutical companies.

The bad news is that doctors are failing to inform cancer patients of drugs they could get for their illness:

A quarter of specialists polled by Myeloma UK said they hid facts about treatments for bone marrow cancer that may be difficult to obtain on the NHS.

Doctors said they did not want to “distress, upset or confuse” patients if drugs had not yet been approved by the NHS drugs watchdog NICE.

Primary Care Trusts can provide drugs ahead of NICE approval but many do not.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is currently reviewing several treatments for myeloma, including the drug Revlimid (lenalidomide) which trials suggest could extend the life of patients by three years.

One in four of the 103 myeloma specialists in England, Wales and Scotland questioned confessed that they had avoided telling patients about licensed drugs still awaiting approval by NICE.

And more bad news is that the English NHS is heading for a huge surplus – meaning that money that could have been spent on treating the sick now has been held for – what purpose? Future investment, possibly. But in future, will this be the profit margin, near two billion pounds…

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