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COVID: What is the price tag of this war?

The UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence is hated by big pharma and has been copied by governments across the world. Given the latest paper from Imperial College on who is affected, how would NICE cost-justify the global Covid response?

NICE enables payors to start refusing to pay for very expensive cancer drugs which may extend life by no more than a few months at a cost of, say, a hundred thousand euros. Given that most of those dying from Covid 19 are very old, it would be interesting to see a similar exercise carried out for the global response to Covid.

The response from politicians generally takes the line that all loss of life is equally bad. It sees Covid as an enemy to stopped at any economic cost. Yet the latest Imperial College paper clearly shows (see its table 1) that the deaths are almost entirely from the very old or some unfortunate younger individuals whose life expectancy was often already severely curtailed. For instance, the youngest UK patient to die at 45 had motor neuron disease and was expected to die in June 2020. It is a personal tragedy for all who knew him. He was doing well and had a young family. But the objective observer might note the quality of life he might have expected in his later months was likely to be, sadly, extremely limited.

Meanwhile, the average Italian patient to die of Covid is 81 and male. That is six months older than average Italian male life expectancy in 2019.

It may well be too late, but we should be questioning the urge to double national debt and run national deficits equal to those of world war two to combat a disease that shortens lives in this way. For the very old to lose 3-4 years of life is sad. But in my personal experience, many over-80s would not regard it as a tragedy and I’ve known several who would have welcomed an earlier death. Combatting Covid like this will have not just a high economic cost but also shorten life expectancy – often for much younger people. The rationale for wars should always be questioned.


We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.