All hell broke out last month, when various National Health Service Trusts in Britain refused to treat women with breast cancer with the drug Herceptin arguing that is was just too costly. The National Health Service (NHS) speedily backed down in the face of public outrage.
Now the NHS wants to limit access to various drugs for Alzheimer's disease patients on the grounds that they are not cost-effective. Actually, there is a lot of research that suggests that delaying the cognitive decline that comes with Alzheimer's saves money because it delays much more costly care, such as admission to assisted living facilities. In any case, the NHS is engaged in pure and simple rationing.
Proponents of government health insurance will reply that private insurers might not cover the cost of such drugs and besides don't you know that there are 40, 50, or 60 million Americans without health insurance, so they wouldn't get the drugs anyway. So what? That response amounts to little more than that we should all get the same equally crappy care by government fiat. Just because extensive government meddling has screwed up private medicine in the United States surely doesn't mean that the solution to the problem is more government intervention.
But there is a bright side to rationing these medicines–as Britain's Alzheimer's patients succumb to their disease, they soon won't realize what their government has done to them.
Disclosure: I can't remember if I own stocks in any Alzheimer's disease drug companies, but I don't think so.