Health

Patient inequality as Wales misses out on lifesaving drug

A new drug with potential lifesaving qualities has been approved for use in NHS England but not the Welsh health service.

Anti-cholesterol drug inclisiran, a twice-yearly injection to treat those who have already had strokes and heart attacks, would help cut the risk of similar life-threatening cardiovascular events reoccurring.

Following approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England and the company behind the drug, Novatris, have reached a deal to offer it to patients.

However, the Welsh Labour Government has not yet reached an agreement to offer the medicine, which usually costs nearly £2,000 per dose, at a discounted rate through NHS Wales.

Meindert Boysen, NICE deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “Inclisiran represents a potential game-changer in preventing thousands of people from dying prematurely from heart attacks and strokes. We’re therefore pleased to be able to recommend it as a cost-effective option on the NHS supported by the ground-breaking deal between NHS England and NHS Improvement and Novartis – a deal that could see as many as 300,000 people with high cholesterol or mixed dyslipidaemia who have already had a previous cardiovascular event receive the drug over the next 3 years.”

Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “This is great news for people in England and will give better piece of mind to those fearful of a repeat heart attack or stroke. Hopefully, those who live near the English border will also be able to benefit from access to the drug.

“I understand that the Welsh Government are in negotiations to supply them in NHS Wales. However, beyond value-for-money they have a responsibility to ensure that our British cousins are not better off than them due to their own inability to act swiftly.

“The Labour Government already have form for missing the boat on the efficient purchasing of vital drugs for patients: from cancer to cystic fibrosis, there are a number of treatments that have come too late in the day for those in Wales.

“As waiting times in A&E soar, ambulance queues mount, and treatment waiting lists balloon in the Labour-run NHS, the least people can expect is that they are not put at a disadvantage to others who live elsewhere in Britain.”

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