September 11, 2008

Dying Cancer Patient Wins High Court Battle for Drug

By Jeremy Laurance

A cancer sufferer given months to live won a court battle yesterday to get a drug that could prolong his life by up to three years.

Colin Ross, 55, who has the blood cancer myeloma, was granted an interim injunction to allow him to start treatment with the drug Revlimid at the Royal Marsden Hospital today.

The judge overturned a decision by West Sussex primary care trust (PCT), which had refused funding for the 5,000-a-course medicine because it had considered Mr Ross's case was not "exceptional".

The judge said the exceptions policy was unlawful because it appeared to require applicants for treatment to be virtually unique. He also decided the panel "fell into error" when considering cost effectiveness.

Revlimid has not been assessed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) and decisions on whether to fund it are left to PCTs. Lawyers for Mr Ross had argued that patients in neighbouring PCTs were given the drug.

The case is likely to increase pressure on NHS trusts to fund cancer drugs, even before their cost effectiveness has been assessed.

Mr Ross was too ill to attend court but his partner, Wendy Forbes- Newbegin, 52, said: "It is an extremely important day for Colin and other patients who find themselves in this appalling situation. I just hope that the judgment has not come too late for Colin."

Yogi Amin, a partner in Irwin Mitchell, the law firm which represented Mr Ross, said: "His NHS doctor and team of expert clinicians prescribed Revlimid to Mr Ross as an exceptional case, and doctors advised that the drug is the only viable option available to extend his life. Despite this, it has taken months, and a High Court legal battle, for him to gain access."

Mr Ross, who walks with two sticks, said last week that he was weak and tired. "I have broken bones. It has got to the point where my bone structure can't support my weight," he said.

West Sussex PCT said it had "the greatest sympathy" with any patient suffering from a terminal condition and had accepted the judge's interim ruling.

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