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Drug approval system "defies logic"

A drug approval system that "defies logic" is denying thousands of osteoporosis sufferers the treatment they need, according to a leading expert.

As many as 5% of sufferers cared for by doctors in England and Wales may experience intolerable side-effects from alendronate, the standard drug prescribed for the condition, which costs under £50 a year. However, as they are not referred to hospital, they do not qualify for more expensive alternatives.

The way the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) vets the cost effectiveness of NHS treatments is to blame for the problem, claims University of Aberdeen Professor David Reid.

"If you don't tolerate this drug and go back to your GP, the GP may well have to say your risk isn't high enough and you can't have the next drug," said Prof Reid. "Frankly, that's just bad medical practice. You don't say to a patient I have something I could give you but you can't have it. That's unnecessarily restrictive. It defies logic."

The disease, which leads to thinning bones that become easily broken, effects around 500,000 women in the UK and most commonly strikes after the menopause.

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