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Postcode lottery over treatment


Patients suffering from rare forms of cancer face a postcode lottery when requesting drugs which have not been licensed for their condition, a report has found.

The Rarer Cancers Forum says more than 1,000 people have been refused treatment over three years. The charity described the situation as being “unacceptable” and has called for improvements.

Data collected from 43 NHS Trusts that released information under the Freedom of Information Act, show that 902 requests were made for “off-label” drugs, with 583 accepted, and 298 rejected.

The survey found that drugs were refused because the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) cannot order NHS organisations to provide such treatments free of charge.

Based on the information, the report claimed that a total of 3,188 requests would have been made to the 152 primary care trusts in England over the three year period, with 2,061 approvals and 1,053 patients being denied the drugs.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Doctors can use their clinical judgment to prescribe any treatment that will benefit their patient, even if it is outside its licensed indication.

“Such decisions need to be made in discussion with the patient concerned and funding may need to be agreed with the local PCT”.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Rarer Cancers Forum

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

Department of Health

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