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UK to Keep New Medicines from the Elderly?

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The UK may soon tighten its health care rationing to prevent new medicines from getting to the elderly. From the Telegraph story:

“New drugs would only be licensed for the NHS [National Health Service] if they help those judged to be a benefit to wider society under proposals from the health watchdog. Pharmaceutical firms on Thursday night warned that the move could lead to new medicines being denied to the elderly.

“A senior professor also said that the plans could threaten the well-being of older people and were ‘deeply suspect’, while charities questioned the ethics of the policy. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which decides whether new medicines should be approved, is due to change its criteria on how funding should be allocated. Under an appraisal system,

“Nice will have to take into account ‘wider societal benefits’ alongside the cost of medication and its life-enhancing properties. Health experts have warned that vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, may lose out because they do not contribute as much to society as younger people.”

I don’t think the restrictions would be limited to the elderly. In the crassly utilitarian world of health care rationing, a whole host of “non productive” people could be targeted for denial of medicines.

This kind of thinking is coming here if the Obamacarians get their way. Indeed, the UK’s rationing system was extolled as a model for the USA by some of Obamacare’s architects, the ACA’s regulators, and among the Medical Intelligentsia.

The potential tightening of health care rationing in the UK, particularly concerning access to new medicines for the elderly, has sparked significant concern and debate. The implications of such measures extend far beyond mere administrative changes, delving into ethical, societal, and healthcare policy realms.

The Telegraph story highlights proposed changes that could have profound effects on healthcare access for older adults. If new drugs are licensed for the National Health Service (NHS) based on their perceived benefit to wider society, rather than solely on their medical efficacy, it raises questions about the principles guiding healthcare decision-making. Pharmaceutical firms have raised alarms about the possibility of elderly patients being denied access to potentially life-saving or life-enhancing medications under such criteria.

Critics of these proposed changes have pointed out the potential harm to older individuals’ well-being and questioned the ethics of prioritizing societal benefit over individual patient needs. The role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in determining funding allocation for new medicines is pivotal in this discussion. As Nice considers broader societal benefits alongside medication costs and efficacy, vulnerable groups like the elderly could face disadvantages due to their perceived lower contribution to society.

However, it’s essential to recognize that the impact of such policies may not be limited to the elderly alone. The broader implications of health care rationing based on societal benefit criteria could affect various demographics deemed “non-productive” or less economically valuable by utilitarian standards. This raises profound ethical questions about the prioritization of healthcare resources and the value placed on human life and dignity within healthcare systems.

Moreover, the potential adoption of similar rationing measures in other healthcare systems, including in the United States, has drawn scrutiny and criticism. The fear that such policies could be embraced by proponents of healthcare reform, akin to elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the US, underscores broader concerns about the direction of healthcare policy and its alignment with ethical principles.

The utilitarian approach to healthcare rationing, where decisions are based on maximizing societal benefit or productivity, risks undermining fundamental principles of healthcare ethics, including beneficence, justice, and respect for individual autonomy. Healthcare systems must strive to balance the need for resource allocation with the ethical imperative to prioritize patient well-being and equitable access to care.

As discussions around healthcare rationing and access to medicines continue, it is crucial to engage in robust dialogue that considers the diverse perspectives and values at stake. Ultimately, decisions about healthcare resource allocation must be guided by principles of fairness, compassion, and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their age or perceived societal contribution.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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