NHS ‘abandoning’ thousands by rationing hepatitis C drugs

NHS England has been accused by a charity of “abandoning” thousands of people to a potential death sentence by rationing drugs that can cure hepatitis C.

An estimated 215,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C infection (160,000 in England), which new but costly drugs can cure. Addaction, a charity that helps people overcome drug and alcohol abuse, says the decision to treat 10,000 people a year is “manifestly unfair”.

Addaction is backing a judicial review application brought by another charity, the Hepatitis C Trust, over NHS England’s decision to cap the annual numbers on cost grounds.

“The decision by NHS England to limit access to treatment is manifestly unfair on a group of vulnerable people who suffer from a terrible disease,” said Simon Antrobus, chief executive of Addaction. “Those who are infected can go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Denying these people life-saving treatment is a potential death sentence for thousands.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended treatment of people with hepatitis C with the new drugs. NHS England first asked for a three-month delay in implementing the guidelines and then capped the numbers it would treat, so that only the sickest get the drugs immediately.

Full story in The Guardian 28 July 2016