Azara Blog: Patients who make waves get special treatment in the NHS

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Date published: 2005/11/09

The BBC says:

A mother-of-four from Staffordshire who lost an appeal to be given the breast cancer drug Herceptin on the NHS will get the treatment paid for after all.

North Stoke Primary Care Trust (PCT) said on Wednesday because of Elaine Barber's exceptional circumstances she should be prescribed the drug.

It rejected her appeal on Monday saying it was not convinced of the drug's safety or cost-effectiveness.

Ms Barber, 41, said she was "over the moon" at the PCT's change of heart.

She had lodged papers against the PCT at the High Court last week.

Ms Barber was told the news after meeting the PCT's chief executive Mike Ridley on Wednesday.

She said: "I am absolutely over the moon. I hope that the very many women like me who just want to be given the chance to live will also be given funding for the drug treatment.

"I can't believe that I have been put through all this just so the health authority can balance the books. Human life cannot and should not be measured in pounds."

This is one of the problems with life in the modern world. People are somehow puzzled that government needs to balance the books. In the UK anybody and everybody (including the BBC) continually insist that the government spend more and more on the NHS (and everything else on the face of the earth). But nobody ever seems to want to question how it gets paid for. Politicians bring this problem upon themselves since they always want to claim you can get something for nothing. And of course the media (including the BBC) play along.

Apparently Herceptin costs about £20000 per patient per year. This is not a trivial number (it is about what the median income is in the UK, so way over the median tax paid). And it is obvious that money spent on Ms Barber will therefore not be spent on other patients. So the moral of the story is that people who get news coverage of their health problems get what they want, and the silent majority have to suffer in silence. Of course possibly the use of Herceptin will in return largely pay for itself, in particular by being successful as a treatment (so, for example, making people healthy enough to allow them to return to work, or to care for their family, etc.). That has got to be the hope.

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