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Ethical dilemmas associated with the introduction of biologic treatments in chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps

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C. Hopkins

This review considers ethical dilemmas which may present when introducing the use of biologic treatments alongside existing treatments in the management of chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps. Biologic therapies offer hope to patients with diseases recalcitrant to conventional therapies but are often significantly more expensive. Reducing the need for surgery may act as a disincentive for use within surgical specialities, while reimbursement for administration has the potential to encourage inappropriate use.
Any treatment should be used considering the principles of beneficence (offering the most effective treatment to the patient) and non-maleficence (minimising the risk of harm); the challenges of comparing the different available treatment options are considered.
Patient autonomy should be involved a process of shared decision making, but when a third-party payor is involved they may seek to place restrictions on access to treatments that limit the choice of both patient and physician. Such decisions are often based on the cost-effectiveness of novel treatments relative to standard of care; published models suggest that at current market prices, biologics are less cost-effective in all groups that standard care. Social justice (fair distribution of limited healthcare resources) therefore may mandate rationing of access.
To this end, working as part of professional organisations or research groups, physicians often produce guidelines that help to identify those in greatest need of novel treatments. The challenges in creating and applying these guidelines are also considered.

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