The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), drug watchdog of the public health stystem in the UK, could consider allowing cancer treatment for the terminally ill too.
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), said that new guidelines to be published next week would extend the range of cancer treatments available on the NHS.
AdvertisementNice has come under fire in recent months for refusing to allow some cancer treatments - which can extend the lives of sufferers for weeks or months - on the grounds that they are not cost-effective.
Sir Michael said that Nice had been consulting on proposals which recognised the particular importance people attached to the extra time such drugs could give them, Telegraph reported.
"We appreciate these extra weeks and months can be very special," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"We are proposing to provide our advisory bodies with supplementary advice in these sort of circumstances which will have the effect of extending the threshold range of what we would normally regard as being cost-effective."
He said that the new guidance, which will be issued on January 2 with immediate effect, would concentrate on treatments for less common cancers.
"We are not proposing to extend this to all conditions. Frankly, it would cost the Health Service hundreds of millions of pounds if we were to do that," he said.
"We believe that the pharmaceutical industry should be prepared, in some circumstances, to lower the cost for common conditions where the volume of patients is greater so that the returns on their investment can be met by a large number of people.
"That is why were are concentrating on less common cancers because we recognise that with the less common cancers and less common conditions, the development costs are about the same as they are for common ones but because the population is smaller they need to charge more for each patient."
Sir Michael said that Nice was taking steps to speed up the approval process for new treatments, but he warned that they would take time to implement.
"What our ambition is, is to make sure that guidance is available to the Health Service within three to six months of a new product going on the market," he said.
"We are putting these arrangements in hand. It won't happen immediately, I'm afraid, because there is a backlog but we will be getting there within the next 12 to 18 months."