Today's NYT has a great article about how Britain decides which drugs it will pay for through its National Health Service. An entity called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has the job of undertaking a cost/benefit analysis for new drugs. It compares a given drug's price with the drug's ability to improve or extend a patient's life. Some drugs make the cut (like Betaseron); others don't (like Avonex).
This makes some people really mad, natch. The value of adding, say, one year to the life of a 75-year-old male smoker is likely to be reckoned much higher if you happen to be the 75-year-old male smoker in question. But if the NHS's budget is finite, what is the alternative?