Thousands of lives could be at risk if a cost-cutting ban on life-saving heart devices is rubber stamped today, doctors warned.
The Health Service could be told to stop issuing drug-coated stents, tiny tubes inserted into arteries which release drugs to prevent the arteries narrowing again.
These are better for some patients than standard, bare metal ones but cost double the price at £600 each.
Last summer the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence said that although drug-eluting stents work, they were not cost-effective.
It is about to give its verdict on the matter.
Around 30,000 patients a year in the UK are treated with the devices but cardiologists estimate 12,000 of these would have to be treated with open heart bypass surgery as an alternative rather than a bare metal stent.
Not only would this be more expensive, the NHS could not cope with a 50 per cent rise in operations.
The British Cardiovascular Intervention Society, which has campaigned against a ban, said it could end up costing an extra £60million a year.
Spokesman Dr Martyn Thomas said: "It's a ludicrous situation because the Nice committee assumes cardiologists will default to using bare metal stents and save the NHS money.
"They have got it completely wrong."
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