Desmond's non-NICE choice: dilemmas from drug-eluting stents in the affordability gap

Clinical Ethics 1 (2):105-108 (2006)
Abstract
For medical interventions there is a gap between what clinical scientific research has established as likely to carry clinical benefit and what the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has judged as cost-effective. This gap is the affordability gap. It is created by a value judgement made by NICE and affirmed by the Secretary of State for Health. This value judgement operates to affect other value judgements made in actual clinical situations where at least one choice of treatment falls into the affordability gap. This paper considers how the creation of this affordability gap impacts upon actual clinical decisions. It explores these issues in the context of the choice between a drug-eluting stent and a bare metal stent for elective coronary angioplasty. It also argues that the option of an NHS procedure with a top-up fee to cover the cost of the affordability gap is a genuine one; that this option could improve clinical outcomes; that it is morally acceptable; and that the rules that prevent the utilization of this option should be relaxed
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