NICE stands for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. This is a wonderful sounding group (heck, even their acronym sounds comforting), but, in reality, it is the United Kingdom’s version of death panels. And, perhaps NICE is coming to a Medicare recipient near you.
NICE decided recently that it would not pay for Benlysta, the first drug developed for the treatment of lupus in 50 years. And, when NICE decides not to cover this or any medication, no one in the UK receives the treatment because, in the UK, the government controls medical treatment. Earlier this year, NICE decided not to pay for a new drug designed to help those suffering from multiple-sclerosis, and, another new drug for the treatment of leukemia.
If an insurance company in the United States refused to cover Benlysta, there would be howls of protest from those on the left. But, there will be no howling here as most insurance companies cover this expensive drug. And, that is the bottom line for NICE. Clinical excellence is irrelevant, as is the patient. All that matters is cost.
Why should we care?
Because NICE is coming to this country courtesy of Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama’s recess appointment to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Here is what Dr. Berwick had to say about NICE,
In an interview on Comparative Effectiveness Research, Berwick supported an agency which would ration [sic] health care. He particularly focused on what he perceives as the benefits of the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence. As Dr. Berwick said:
NICE is extremely effective and a conscientious, valuable, and — importantly — knowledge-building system [which has] developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn.
I know you believe that this could never happen in America, but, how else can Dr. Berwick cut $500 billion out of Medicare as demanded by Obamacare? Actually, now that I think of it, Dr. Berwick seems to be the perfect man for the job.