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Guidelines to help cancer patients

People with terminal illnesses could have access to more treatments on the NHS thanks to new guidelines published by the national drugs watchdog.

Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), said that the guidelines would give a more flexible approach to the issuing of treatments which can prolong people's lives.

Cancer drugs can extend the lives of sufferers for weeks or months, and NICE has come under fire for refusing to allow some treatments on the grounds that they are not cost-effective.

Sir Michael said that NICE had been consulting on proposals which recognised the particular importance people attached to the extra time such drugs could give them.

"We appreciate these extra weeks and months can be very special," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We are proposing to provide our advisory bodies with supplementary advice in these sort of circumstances which will have the effect of extending the threshold range of what we would normally regard as being cost-effective."

The new guidance was issued on 2 January 2009 and concentrates on treatments for less common cancers.

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