There is an illusion abroad that the NHS is free and available to all, but in fact like everything else inside capitalism health has a price and the wealthier you are the healthier you are likely to be.
"Drug rationing is essential in the NHS, and ministers should back the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which plays the key role in deciding which ones are worthwhile, MPs will say today in a hard-hitting report. The health select committee will call for more appraisals, not less, by Nice, which has been castigated by patient groups and drug companies whenever it has banned a new drug from the NHS. In a report following an inquiry into the workings of Nice and the fierce opposition it provokes, MPs recommend that all drugs should be given a rapid appraisal by Nice at the time of launch. Those that clearly work well enough and are cheap enough - probably no more than £20,000 a patient a year, which is lower than the current threshold - would be provided by the NHS straight away. More expensive medicines would have to go through a full appraisal which could take more than a year. Kevin Barron, the committee's chairman, said that might have the beneficial effect of encouraging some drug companies to pitch their drugs at lower prices. The drug industry was not pleased. "British patients already have worse access to new medicines than others in Europe," said Richard Barker, the director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry." (Guardian, 10 January) RD