Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The MVNHS© Strikes Again!

War hero, and NHS victim, Jack Tagg wanted nothing more than the sight restored to his right eye. Mr Tagg, a sprightly 89, was in danger of losing that sight due to macular degeneration (MD), a function of his advancing years.
Fortunately, a med called Lucentis held promise: it's an injectable drug that blocks abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage (which cause macular degeneration). Although it's not cheap (it can run $15,000 or more), it's apparently quite effective. And it's also one of the few effective treatments available.
In the event, Mr Tagg dutifully contacted the MVNHS©, believing that the service would quickly approve the treatment, and he could go on about his daily life. Obviously, poor Mr Tagg hasn't been reading IB, else he'd know that this was but a pipedream:
Well, that makes sense, doesn't it? Can't really help him until he's truly blind, don't you see?
The misinformed former pilot even thought he could just pay for the treatment himself:
"Tagg was astonished. "I would have gone blind, unless we could have sold the house and got some money," he says."
Sadly, no; as we've seen, this course of action could prove even more costly.
Fortune was smiling on Mr Tagg, though, in the form of his neighbor, Dr. Martin Rankin. The good doctor went online, soliciting contributions to help defray the cost of the medication. He collected hundreds of checks, which he and Mr Tagg hand delivered to 10 Downing Street, press in tow. The Prime Minister wasn't having any of this, however, and returned all the checks.
Then our hero's own Member of Parliament stepped up to the plate, and demanded answers from the MVNHS©, which intervened on Mr Tagg's behalf, pressuring the local representatives to make an exception (and/or stop the bad press). But fighter that he is, Mr Tagg demurred unless and until the service offered the same treatment to everyone with MD.
And that's apparently exactly what's happened:
"In fact, NICE now says local health boards shouldn't wait for the first eye to go blind, they should pay for Lucentis right away in situations where it's warranted. Officials at NICE say it wasn't a result of Tagg's activism, but a scheduled reconsideration of the data."
Not "a result of Tagg's activism." But of course.
One might be tempted to say that this demonstrates how flexible the NHS can be when its back is to the (metaphorical) wall. But that's most assuredly not the lesson here; rather, it's that when something's "free," you can bet that there will be strings attached.
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