No Herceptin please, we're British

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  • 04/15/2006

Here at we have frequently commented that one of the basic differences between the various European health care models and our own is one between quality and equality. Europeans, by large margins, believe that equality of care is more important than quality of care while we in the US put quality first. We’ve also commented on the situation in the UK where a woman was denied Herceptin for treatment of her breast cancer because of NHS cost considerations. Well, an appeals court in London has ruled that the health service acted illegally when they denied her access to the drug. It seems that quality counts after all. This is a victory of sanity over philosophy.

The implications for the NHS system are profound, but equally important are the implications for those who would demand a purely evidence-based (read “cost-based”) system in the US. Are formularies limited to only the most cost-efficient treatments truly in the best interest of the public health? Clearly not.

Gil Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation (which represents organizations within the British health care system sums it up NICEly, “These decisions are extremely difficult and best taken as close to the patient as possible.”

And that means in the doctor’s office — not Washington, DC.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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