Cure your cancer or your money back!

Velcade

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The money-back guarantee is a staple of American commerce. You find 'em in industries from electronics to sporting goods. Not so often in the field of health care.

Now though, a Britain, division of Johnson and Johnson has offered to refund the cost of one of its cancer drugs if it doesn't work. From London, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: Jackie Pickles suffers from myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. The condition is incurable. But last year, she took part in a clinical trial of Velcade. And she says it's improved the quality of her life — and prolonged it.

JACKIE PICKLES: I'm as good as I've ever been with multiple myeloma, and I've suffered it for five years. I'm back at work and feeling a valued member of society.

Other myeloma sufferers in Britain are not so lucky. So far, the state-run National Health Service — which provides free healthcare for all — has refused to prescribe Velcade. Why? Because it costs $6,000 for a single course, and it doesn't always work.

But now, the manufacturer has made an unusual offer: We'll sell the drug, and then refund the money if the patient's health does not improve.

Andrew Dillon, head of the body that weighs up the costs of new medicines for the NHS, likes the deal.

ANDREW DILLON: It's important that when we've got a drug that is effective for some patients that we tailor our arrangements so that those patients can get access. And potentially, this is one way of doing that, and doing it in a way that makes sense for the NHS, with its inevitably limited funding.

The drug company is still haggling nervously over the details. Roger Goss of Patients' Concern is not surprised.

ROGER GOSS: Drugs are not guaranteed to do everybody they're tried on good. So they might find having to pay back quite a lot of money.

Nevertheless, he says, this novel approach could enable the NHS to prescribe a wider range of hugely expensive new drugs.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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