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$80,000 to prolong survival by 1.2 months

The Wall Street Journal added to the discussion about cost-effectiveness of cancer drugs reflecting on a commentary in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute estimating that “it would cost $440 billion to extend life by one year for the 550,000 Americans who die annually of cancer.”

Important topic. I’m glad the WSJ addressed it.

But one line bothered me. It read:

“Some countries, like the United Kingdom, agree to pay for expensive drugs only if they meet a certain threshold of efficacy, but no such rationing exists in the U.S.”

A news story that comes right out and labels a demand for proof of efficacy as rationing?

A semantics purist may say that the term applies in this discussion – like restricting or rationing consumption of meat or electricity during war.

But given that any newsroom must realize how the term is used as a heavy-handed piece of rhetoric by those who oppose evidence-based medicine and who oppose health care reform that calls for such evidence, this seems like editorializing.

Good story – but that one word in that one sentence left a bad taste for me. Semantics, word choice and framing matter if you care about public understanding of complex health policy issues.

Despite my red marks on that one section, read the rest of the article (if it’s still available online), which was important enough to be on page one of at least the D section of the printed WSJ, not way back on D4.

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