The Price of Life

The Price of Life

Ratings: 8.34/10 from 29 users.

The Price of LifeDocumentary about the rationing of high cost cancer drugs by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

On a finite budget, the NHS cannot afford to offer every treatment on the market, so how is it decided which medications should be made available?

Adam Wishart follows the nail-biting decision about one drug, with unprecedented access to decision-makers the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the patients who need a life-extending treatment, and the American company that discovered and will profit from it.

As the body that decides which pharmaceutical treatments the NHS can afford, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence wields enormous power over many patients in the UK.

Focusing on the cancer drug Revlimid, this eye-opening documentary, by director Adam Wishart, speaks to a senior member of the Institute and to those – such as cancer patients and NHS managers – who will be affected by its decisions.

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2 years ago

This documentary is really thought-provoking for me. Especially because I have grown up in a community and society that does not have universal healthcare. In the country I have grown up in, healthcare is always paid for via out-of-pocket payment methods. The government does subsidise certain medications and there is a government subsidised insurance scheme for every citizen.

This documentary exposed me to the concept of universal healthcare and how it has resulted in societies that are too over-reliant on free healthcare that out-of-pocket payment is not even an option. Most citizens in countries with UHC are not used to saving and spending money on healthcare and medication. As such, when the government organisations do not provide them free medication for drugs that they need, they get angry and blame everything on the government.

But at the end of the day, the government is restricted funds and the taxes their citizens are willing to pay. It is all placed on a balance which is why the government has to make hard decisions on what medication to subsidise and who they can help, especially governments in country that pride themselves on free healthcare.

I think the main problem, globally, are the drug companies. They understand the value of medication and are willing to leave people behind; leave people for dead- they hold medication, medical progress and the health of entire countries hostage for monetary gain.

They pride themselves on furthering science but really all they are doing is furthering their bank accounts. They do everything possible to monopolise certain treatment so they can hike the price up as much as they want. Is this really for the benefit of science? They claim that they require incentives to further research and improve humans but if they truly care about scientific development they will be incentivise by the need for development not money.

However, at the end of the day, money makes the world go round. Money is needed to cloth, house and feed people. Money restricts so many things, including advancement of health systems and the general health status of a country. We can blame the government as much as we want, but they are also restricted by monetary limits.

This documentary really highlights to me how naive my thought process is with regards to healthcare. Considering that I am studying to become a healthcare professional, it has really made me aware of the need to educate myself not only on the healthcare system in my country but globally to gain a more holistic perspective on healthcare.

11 years ago

covernment are only bothered about there own...they soon find the money if this was the case..

Jessica Li
11 years ago

lmao. british teens and infant mortality. teens. do. stuff. like. get high and drunk and stuff that young people do. for ****sakes.

11 years ago

what i don't understand is if the drug was too expensive and the nhs rejected it, how was that any use to the pharmaceutical company? if they don't lower the price, they don't get paid. surely its better for them to lower the price? and its incredibly fustrating to see that woman say that because of the acceptance of that drug meant that 30 babies will die in her trust because i know full well that the nhs is pissing money away on equipment that is unnecessary and costs £100k/year for each hospital and thats only one piece of equipment! silly nhs

11 years ago

wow, once again a death ear. u win. I won't bother or ask ya again. just please give privacy a chance. U took everything else. nothing left! Bye

11 years ago

Governments have their own agenda, believe me, and WE aint in it. :-((
Money is.

David Edwards
11 years ago

Good doc, thought provoking for me. Interesting, debatable and a subject that affects many.

Interesting how the drug company offered a price they claimed was based upon the effort and investment of research both for the drug and potential new drugs, yet when the drug was declined they offered a special deal in effect lowering the price. Did the research of new drugs suddenly become cheaper? Are they trying to maximise profits like they deny, or are they just trying to get the drug on the market at the expense of future research? Of course getting the drug on the market and profiteering are not exclusive. Yet the driving force behind the decision(to lower the price of the drug) being "to get the drug on the market" alone would be(i guess, its debatable) the more ethically acceptable.

It would be great if they just sold the drug at the cost of production however then who would pay for the research? I, personally, would not mind paying extra taxes, or diverting funds from "defense" budgets. But then, how much should we spend, and in what areas? Once invented however, with income from taxpayers assured there would need be no profit to research the next drug and the drug could be manufactured and used at base cost.

Interesting how the drug was cleared for use with the NHS but with a limited budget i wonder what will be the true cost. What services and treatments will suffer. Is it true that the people in charge of evaluating new drugs now deem that a months extra life at the end of your life, is worth 1.4times the amount of a months life for people who have longer to live? Its sad that someone has to decide the value of peoples lives, but i guess under a monetary system it must be done.

Once again the sole barrier holding back societies ability to alleviate pain is but printed paper less then a mill thick and human suffering is a commodity to be traded at profit.

If i understand it correctly, we seem to be able to produce an endless amount of money from nothing, why then are so many suffering because of the lack of it?

11 years ago

Sorry for the short meaningless comment but things like this make me so angry

11 years ago

Hanging to life for at any cost is selfish. It should be considered honoroble to die earlier and enable other people to have better lives.
Some native cultures have this noble tradition. A person decides himself when when it is time to go.
There is something larger than life in decision like that.

11 years ago

Yeah, the only good thing to come out of a patents office was Albert Einstein!
Congrats to India, taking Bayer to court and winning the right to copy the drug and making it affordable. I see where Roche is following suite with other cancer management drugs next year, except they are volunteering the reductions themselves.xx

11 years ago

The problem is corporate profits are more important than people. There is a basic health care for the non paying and then there is the elite health care for those who can afford it. There is a two tiered system in any universal health care in countries like England and Canada etc. At least there is basic health care, unlike let's say the USA. Where you have free health care, you do have adequate even good care but you also have some drugs that are too expensive for universal care and so they come at a price. Perhaps, the govt's need to restrict profits of these drug companies in the interest of public health. The other thing is, that the public near to look at healthy living as a preventative medicine, including nutrition to avoid dependency on universal health care.

11 years ago

All arguments aside, once 'economics' comes into an equation, 'philosophy' needs to be thrown out, because it won't work past a certain point.
Our lives have become as worthwhile as the cash flow they can generate.
Monopoly is the name of their game and we allow them.
Alternative Option 1
the chemists who successfully 'cook' meth amphetamines etc could put their backyard skills to better use and clone some ultra cheap yet nevertheless profitable drugs such as lenalidomide and put them on the 'black market' - in reach of everyday people and their limited cash.
Mainstream Option 1
Perhaps the creators of life saving/extending drugs could be the sole recipients of mega rewards in order for the good work to continue, because the actual ingredients/manufacturing costs so very little.
Current Option 1
Unless you are a corporate head, movie star or sports icon, never get sick. x

john ng
11 years ago

There's a few underlying assumptions that need to be cleared up, which i don't know the answer to.

1. The drugs can still be purchased privately by the patient right? they just want the gov to pay for it, rather than themselves.

2. That the money saved on new drugs is not used to buy other drugs for other patients. i.e. if the NHS spent 100K/yr for 1 patient, wouldn't that mean that they 4 other patients only needing 25K/yr are excluded? (under a fixed budget)

3. Why are the drugs so expensive?, as one other comment mentions.

4. Is the money that goes to the pharmaceutical companies being wasted? or actually being used to develop more drugs. 30 thousand or 40 thousand dollars a year is still miniscule compared to how much the bank and fund managers have cheated me with mortgages and financial products. I'm pretty sure the bank has contributed less to drug development than a small biotech or pharmaceutical.

5. Is there actually a solution to this problem? even if every drug is subsidised, every patient still wants the latest and greatest drug available, as soon as a pharmaceutical puts out a new drug, the problem will start all over again. If there are no drugs at all, this problem doesn't exist. But don't we want drugs to be available.

:-( Not a simple issue at all.

11 years ago

the funny thing about all this is is that the chemical structure of this drug is very simple and it could easily be mass manufactured very cheaply.

11 years ago

This is Sarah Palin's death panel at work in England. Of course in the US, these desisions are made on private insurance panels. It doesn't matter what you think, the same decision will be made no matter which medical panel is used and any attempt to control costs will end up in a politician losing an election.

11 years ago

The cruel irony is that those bureaucrats on the NHS will fight tooth and nail for life supporting techniques and expect to receive them when they themselves come to that point.

Antonis D. Politis
11 years ago

Hard but true.. These are decisions that have to be taken..

Sth important: drug companies can't be common for-profit companies.. We have to find "other" models for producing drugs.

Thanks for the doc!

11 years ago

Miserable. Not allowed to negotiate with drug companies, which id**t came up with that rule? Wishart said it all. Some people fight for every last second of life at any cost and others fly to Switzerland and give it up. Eventually it will be time to die, hard to know when enough is enough either way.