UK government needs to show support for the National Institute of Clinical Excellence

The UK Government needs to show vocal support for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the best mechanism to ensure equity in the country's health system, states an Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Last week NICE rejected five appeals against its guidance restricting the use of four drugs for Alzheimer's disease---donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine, and memantine. The decision was met by public outrage and branded "blatant cost cutting" by the Alzheimer's Society. But the Editorial points out that NICE's recommendations are necessary to make best use of limited funds in the UK's tax-funded health system. The Lancet believes the Government's patient choice agenda ignores the necessity for rational spending. "By urging patients to demand more from health services, the government is effectively ignoring the fact that a tax-based system means some kind of rationing is essential," states the Editorial.

The Lancet comments: "If the government really wants to extend choice within the NHS, as it has pledged, it should launch a debate about the health-financing framework necessary to support this philosophy. But its first obligation should be to show vocal support for NICE as the best mechanism to ensure equity in the UK's current health system."

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EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday October 20, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday October 19, 2006.

Contact: The Lancet press office T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com


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