Azara Blog: Court of Appeal forces Primary Care Trust to fund Herceptin

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Date published: 2006/04/12

The BBC says:

A breast cancer patient should have the drug Herceptin, according to a landmark ruling from the Court of Appeal.

Ann Marie Rogers of Swindon, Wilts, was appealing against an earlier High Court decision upholding Swindon Primary Care Trust's refusal to fund Herceptin.

Ms Rogers, 53, had said she faced a "death sentence" without Herceptin.

The Appeal Court ruling does not force local NHS bodies to fund the drug, but it said it was irrational to treat one patient but not another.

The judges said the ruling would not "open the floodgates" as only women who met the clinical criteria for Herceptin would qualify for the drug.
Ms Rogers, said she was "extremely delighted and relieved" at the Appeal Court's "humanitarian" judgement.

"I've got my life back. It's like winning the lottery.
A year's treatment with the drug costs an estimated £20,000.

The treatment is currently licensed for the treatment of advanced breast cancer but not for early-stage breast cancer, which research has suggested it could also help.

Makers Roche submitted their licence application for early-stage breast cancer to European drug authorities in February.

Once that is granted, NHS drugs watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) promised to fast-track its appraisal if Herceptin is cost-effective .

What a way to run a health service. Rogers is entirely correct, she has won the lottery. Especially given that the cost of the drug is 20000 pounds per year. The number of people who wrote into the BBC today saying that "cost does not matter if one life is saved" (which was allegedly not the issue here, although it should have been part of it) are living in cloud cuckoo land. What they are really saying is that the taxation rate should be 100%. After all, we wouldn't want any treatment to be refused for reasons of cost. Ask them whether they would be willing to pay 100% in tax and see what response you get. At least the people of NICE understand the cost issue. Unfortunately the breast cancer pressure groups, with the support of the media, are only interested in promoting their cause above all others, independent of cost, and they have already bounced the government into support for the drug, so that NICE will have to approve the drug no matter what the cost. No doubt Roche made up the figure of 20000 because it is extortionate but not so extortionate as to make it totally unaffordable. Hopefully the breast cancer pressure groups will now tell us what other treatments should be refused on the NHS because of all the money that will be diverted towards Herceptin and similar drugs.

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