Expensive Herceptin draws fire in UK

Roche's drug Herceptin has become a lightning rod for debate over cancer treatment in England. Radiotherapists--including the specialty's chief at the National Health Service--are saying that cancer treatment is weighted too heavily toward expensive drugs and not enough toward more cost-effective radiation treatments.

The NHS spent some $206 million on Herceptin last year, and only 500 patients benefited from that chemotherapy, Dr. Peter Kirkbride told the BBC. Spending that kind of money on drugs means the NHS can't invest as much in radiation machines. For the same amount, Kirkbride said, he could have treated 30,000 cancer patients with radiation.

Predictably, radiation-machine manufacturers aren't pleased, either; a trade group spokesman says there's been a "collapse in critical investment." How much of this debate is evidence-based outrage and how much sour grapes? We'll let the NHS decide.

- read the BBC's report