Holly Pitt Young
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The numbers are as startling as tragic. According to the Daily Mail, “Up to 20,000 people have died needlessly early after being denied cancer drugs on the NHS, it was revealed yesterday. The rationing body NICE has failed to keep a promise to make more life-extending drugs available.”

British cancer patients are routinely denied access to critical life-extending drugs because of their costs.

The Telegraph noted two year ago, that the British health care system’s decision to deny patients four kidney cancer drugs on the NHS was denounced by doctors as 'poor' and 'unsuitable'. They said it was a "tragedy" that Britain's leading role in cancer research was not being translated into treatment for all patients, who were often left struggling to pay for the drugs themselves. The decision has led patients to mortgage their house in order to obtain the drugs and treatment they need to survive.

The occurrences on the other side of the pond are notable not because they are rare, but because they are commonplace. There are no howls of protests from patients who are powerless and are forced to live under the dictates of bureaucrats who make life and death decisions based upon budget constraints and not what’s best for the patients. This is the fundamental basis of government-run health care.

And Americans are perhaps 60 days away from our cancer patients suffering a similar fate.

That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has apparently opened the door to using cost as part of their evaluation process for drugs. The late-stage cancer drug Avastin has been proven effective in extending the life of cancer patients. Rather than testing the safety and efficacy of the drug, the FDA created a new standard that would allow patients who could afford the drug to use it, while those who cannot would be denied their use.

They are considering “de-labeling” the drug for breast cancer patients – essentially allowing Medicare and private insurance to deny coverage of the drug under their policies.

The FDA has moved a final decision about the fate of Avastin and breast cancer patients until after the elections. Not a great sign.

Will the American people accept the bureaucratic dictates that will deny them to a valuable treatment option or will they stand up and say rationing is not the American way?

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Holly Pitt Young

Holly Pitt Young is a frequently interviewed expert in Washington, D.C. who focuses on the crossroads between policy and political engagement.