August 11, 2008

Cancer Patients Left to Die ; Drugs Withheld – Study

PATIENTS with rare cancers are being left to die because of a postcode lottery over who gets access to drugs, research out today suggests.

A study from the Rarer Cancers Forum found wide variations across England in the number of patients granted access to medicines.

The charity obtained full details under the Freedom of Information Act from 62 of England's 152 primary care trusts.

It revealed that 100% of applications from patients were rejected in some areas of the country, but in other areas all were approved.

Overall, one in four exceptional requests were denied.

The charity extrapolated the statistics to give a suggestion of how many patients across England may have been denied treatment. The figure was 1,314.

The charity's chief executive, Penny Wilson-Webb, said: "The NHS should be available to all who need it, yet 1,300 cancer patients were denied the treatment that could have made all the difference to them.

"This audit shows that the exceptional cases process is in chaos and patients are suffering."

PCTs are not forced to fund treatments which have not yet been appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), or which are not being appraised.

Doctors and patients must appeal for the drugs, saying the patients represent an "exceptional case".

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The department issued good practice guidance to the NHS in December 2006 that makes it clear that funding for treatments should not be withheld solely because Nice guidance is not available, but that decisions should be made on the basis of the available evidence."

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