What price good health?

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UK women are being denied access to a more effective osteoporosis drug because they’re just not sick enough.

The Guardian recently ran a story about a new drug for osteoporosis that women are currently being denied in the UK.

Zoledronate is said to be a better drug because it replaces the current drug, alendronate, with an annual injection. Alendronate, in contrast, has to be taken daily, and there are some side-effects and dietary restrictions.

The main issue, as ever, is cost – zolendronate is five times the cost of alendronate. 

The cost, however, is ridiculously small, at £250 per year. 

A significant number of patients even refuse to take the weekly alendronate pill because of its uncomfortable side-effects. But they are not offered the alternative of zoledronate, because they are not ill enough to qualify for it.

Surely the cost of this new treatment should be offset not against the cost of alendronate but against the ultimate cost of treating bone fractures in women with osteoporosis. 

In the late 1970s, my grandmother fell and broke a hip. She was never the same again, and over the next ten years, must have cost the NHS a fortune, not to mention the costs of treating my grandfather who was worn out with looking after her and had a heart attack. 

It is about time that NICE got its act together.

And it strikes me, while we’re at it, that if osteoporosis was a disease that affected men and not women, the money would be forthcoming a lot quicker. 

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