In yet another spectacular own goal, NHS England has asked NICE to delay the evaluation of a lifesaving medication to treat Hep C, by a further 6 months. The drug in question Sofosbuvir was licenced for use late last year and a special access program has been in place since April. This meant patients with less than a year to live would be able to get treatment prior to NICE recommendations. Now NHS England has asked NICE to delay the review of this potentially lifesaving medication by a further 6 months. The main reason is the cost of the treatment estimated at around £35000 for a 12-week course.

NHS England asks NICE to delay vital Hep C treatment review

Whilst I can understand that there are concerns about the cost, I do feel this is a short-sighted decision. It is important to realise that the only people currently affected will be those who need the treatment most. For a lot of these patients, a delay of 6 months could mean that they have an increased risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. Some of the patients do not have the luxury of waiting a further 6 months.

In addition, for most people, the medication will cure their Hepatitis C, which will in the long term save the NHS millions. Just think about all the routine blood that will no longer have to be done, the scans, the doctors’ appointments for follow up and consider the cost of treating liver cancer should a patient develop this or the cost of a liver transplant. Think of all the time and money it would save if the person was cured instead.

The UK is a first-world country and it is shocking that important decisions such as these are put on the back burner due to cost concerns. These treatments are already being given to patients on the continent. Why should there be a further delay over here? In today’s Times, there is an article about the government planning to rip up a “broken “system that denies NHS patients life-extending treatment. How does this tally with NHS England’s decision?

The medications might be expensive but a cure is a cure. It will mean that these patients can return to being productive citizens who will pay taxes and contribute to the economy. It means they will be less likely to infect others which could eventually lead to the eradication of this terrible disease. Surely that should be the driving factor.

Although they have agreed to keep allowing the use for those with liver failure till the review, they have not commented on what happens after that. We should all voice our dissatisfaction at the short-sightedness of this decision. People are dying from this disease!