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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Britain's Answer to Rising Drug Costs

Time magazine recently interviewed Sir Michael Rawlins, the head of Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and he provides a fascinating look at the UK's response to out-of-control drug prices. It's quite simple: if the proposed health benefits of a drug fail to justify the cost, his agency won't approve it.

But how does one measure "health benefits"? The British government has an answer: through a series of calculations, NICE determines how many "quality-adjusted years" a treatment will generate for patients on average. This number is used to generate a monetary cost per "quality-adjusted year" of life.

Rawlins freely admits that his agency's job is to determine the value of life--an idea that probably sounds Orwellian to many of us. But he prefers this approach to the U.S. alternative, which currently denies affordable health care to millions of people.

What do you think? Ralph Waldo Emerson said "the first wealth is health," but does wellness have a real dollars-and-cents value? I'd like to hear your views. 

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