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Published on 26 March 2009

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NHS “should allow drug top-ups”

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Mixing private and NHS drug treatments should be allowed in Scotland “in certain cases”, says health secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

She was speaking after the death of a man who paid privately for the bowel-cancer drug cetuximab, which although licensed in Scotland is not approved by his health authority, NHS Grampian.

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee later ruled that treatment must be based on clinical need, and urged more clarity in the way health boards decide the issue.

Ms Sturgeon said that with Scotland`s annual drugs bill standing at £1.22 billion – 10% of the NHS budget – further guidance is needed to ensure consistency in the “exceptional prescribing” of drugs.

This applies when clinicians believe that a drug should be allowed in a particular case, even though it has not been recommended for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).

In the meantime, the Committee guidance says that patients paying the NHS to “top up” their care will not be allowed, and that the NHS must not be used to offer a two-tier service or subsidise private treatment.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Scottish Medicines Consortium



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