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More of ‘less’


Running on from yesterday’s Giles Coren post, here’s another growing abuse of the word ‘less’, with its latest manifestation.

Novartis AG, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, is seeking judicial review of the decision by a handful of UK health authorities to dare to undercut it by using a cheaper drug. The medical condition in question is Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (Wet AMD) for which Novartis’s drug, Lucentis, costs £740 per injection. Some hospitals have been successfully treating it with Avastin, however, an anti-cancer drug which costs £60 a time. The problem is that Avastin’s not yet specifically licensed in the UK for use on Wet AMD.

Avastin was described by David Stout (Deputy Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation) on on Radio 4 this morning (at 1:34:00) as being “ten times cheaper” than Lucentis.

No, it intercoursing well isn’t! Disregarding the ropey arithmetic, it costs a tenth (or, rather, a twelfth-ish) of the price of Lucentis. It costs 10% (well, 8%) of the price. It costs a fraction of the price. It is not ten times cheaper. Ten times cheaper than £740 is -£6,600.

Q: Why isn’t Avastin licensed for use on Wet AMD?

A: Because the manufacturer hasn’t submitted it for approval.

Q: Who makes Avastin?

A: Novartis!


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