Thousands of heart patients could be denied life-saving treatment because the NHS believes it is too expensive.
The decision to restrict drug-coated stents - special tubes which are fitted into arteries to prevent them from narrowing - to all but the most at-risk patients could put lives in danger, critics warned.
Around 40,000 people a year are fitted with the devices, known as 'drug-eluting stents' or DES, which are more expensive than traditional 'bare metal' varieties.
But they are more effective at keeping people out of hospital and make it less likely that people will have to undergo dangerous heart bypass operations.
The NHS rationing body, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, admitted that DES are much more effective in preventing the re-narrowing of arteries than bare metal stents.
Despite this, their final guidance said DES should only be given to patients deemed to be the most seriously at risk of heart attacks.
The manufacturers of the stents - dubbed 'magic bullets' - said thousands of patients would lose out. The companies are now considering whether to launch a judicial review against the decision.
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