Moving on
Towards Better Times...?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Life - but only at the right price?

Woman appeals in Herceptin case

LONDON (Reuters) - A woman with early-stage breast cancer went to the Court of Appeal in London on Monday in a bid to force her health authority to pay for the potentially life-saving drug Herceptin.

Ann Marie Rogers, 54, is appealing against a High Court ruling last month that Swindon Primary Care Trust in Wiltshire need not pay for the costly medication, made by Switzerland's Roche.

At an earlier hearing, the judge was told that Rogers felt as though she had been given "a death sentence" as a result of having been initially refused the drug, which costs about 20,000 pounds ($35,000) a year.

Rogers' lawyer David Pannick told the court on Monday that refusing the drug was "unlawful and unreasonable" and breached his client's rights under the Human Rights Convention.

Herceptin is one of a new generation of targeted therapies which attack only cancer cells and are tolerated much better than traditional chemotherapy.

The drug is only licensed for use in women with advanced breast cancer, although doctors can use their discretion to prescribe it in other cases.

Research has shown Herceptin can help patients in the early stages of breast cancer but many health authorities say they will only fund treatment in exceptional cases.

"The case for Miss Rogers is that refusal of the respondent trust to provide her with the drug Herceptin was unlawful, it was unreasonable, it was the result of a failure to give proper consideration to relevant factors and it breaches her right to life," Pannick said.

Rogers met all the necessary criteria for a patient to receive the drug and her doctor had said she should be given it as it represented her best chance of survival.

"The stark facts are she has a 25 percent chance of remaining free of the disease after 10 years and a 57 percent prospect of breast cancer killing her in 10 years," he added.......

The rest of this article can be found here: MSN.UK

My Comments:

Like most women, the prospect of getting Breast Cancer is a real fear. In fact, the prospect of getting any kind of cancer is something I dread. It is still, so often, a death sentence.

So, when a drug is developed that has been proved to give more hope for women with breast cancer, I can see no moral reason to withhold it from them.

Okay, one argument is that it is still unlicenced in this country and has, thus, not completed all trials. The argument goes that it is offered to some women with late stage breast cancer because, weighing up the benefits of the drug against the risk of using it when trials are incomplete, it can be seen that the hope it offers these women is worth the risk of, as yet undiscovered, side effects.

A compelling argument.

There is also the argument that Herceptin will not help in all cases of breast cancer, so it would be pointless to give it to all women without assessing whether they were suitable candidates for the drug. Fair enough.

But when an NHS Trust decides whether or not a woman can have Herceptin, and their case is based, primarily, on the cost of the drug - ie. whether it is 'cost effective' - to offer it to her, and when, as in the case of Ann Marie Rogers, a breast cancer specialist has recommended that she receive Herceptin, and has assessed her illness as one which would benefit from the drug, but those in charge of the Trust (ie. managers, not health specialists) say that she shouldn't receive it (at least, not from their fundings) then there is something vitally wrong with the the UK system of NHS funding.

But I'm only a woman who pays her taxes and National Insurance (part of which should go to the NHS).

And I'm only a human being who believes in human rights.

What do I know?

posted by summersun70 at 10:08 AM


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