Judge denies breast cancer patient Herceptin in landmark legal trial

Herceptin denial

16.02.2006

Mr Justice Bean has today found in favour of Swindon Primary Care Trust (PCT) and ruled that they do not have to supply Ms Ann Marie Rogers (54) with the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

The ruling comes after a two day hearing at the High Court on the 6th & 7th February 2006, where Swindon PCT argued that they should not have to fund Ann Marie's treatment, despite her clinician prescribing Herceptin. The PCT argued that they would only fund the course of treatment if they felt the patient was 'exceptional'.

The case, which has been estimated to have cost Swindon PCT in the region of £50,000 was the first of its kind to go to a full hearing. Yogi Amin, of national law firm Irwin Mitchell represented Ann Marie Rogers and argued that she should be provided with the drug which clinical trials have shown to prevent the recurrence of the aggressive HER2 type breast cancer in 50% of cases.

During the court case, the judge heard evidence that the personal opinion of the national 'Cancer Tsar', Prof Mike Richards, was that all women with HER2 breast cancer who were eligible for the drug Herceptin, are 'exceptional'.

Ms Rogers' solicitor Yogi Amin of national law firm Irwin Mitchell said of the result, "We are naturally very upset with the result, and it is extremely distressing for Ann Marie. We do intend to take this decision to the Court of Appeal."

"No one has the right to decide who is, or isn't, exceptional, and who should and should not receive life saving treatment. What ds it say about the PCT's opinion of its doctors when they will fund her course of treatment despite her clinician prescribing the drug."

Mr Amin continued, "The result effectively means that PCT's will now be able to deny women Herceptin, because they feel the drug is too expensive for certain women to warrant it, these women should not be made to feel that a monetary value is being put on their lives. Research* has shown that Herceptin can halve the chances of recurrence of the aggressive HER2 form of the disease, and this should not be ignored and peoples lives should not be treated in this way."

Herceptin solicitor

Herceptin solicitor Yogi Amin's full statement on behalf of Ann Marie Rogers reads:

Ann Marie Rogers is devastated at the outcome of this judicial review but is determined take her fight for this drug to the Court of Appeal. She is angry that the court did not reverse the decision of her Primary Care Trust to refuse her Herceptin, despite her consultant's recommendation. The judge said that what the Secretary of State for Health issued to Primary Care Trusts did not amount to a direction that they must not refuse this drug.

Whilst Ann Marie accepts the pressures the Secretary of State is under, in terms of the licensing of life saving drugs, she also feels that the hopes of hundreds of breast cancer sufferers up and down the country have been built up by previous statements from the Secretary of State. The court commented that unless the Secretary of State issues a direction, her views can be dismissed by the trusts.

Ann Marie has an aggressive form of breast cancer and has been let down by her health authority. Access to life-saving cancer treatment depends on where you live in England and Wales.

The court heard that Professor Mike Richards, the National Cancer Director at the Department of Health, had urged this PCT to treat all women who fit the criteria for the HERA trial as 'exceptional'. A clear direction on the availability of Herceptin for early-stage breast cancer sufferers is now needed.

Ann Marie would like to thank the media and public for all the personal messages of support which have been a great comfort to her. She urges them to continue in their support for the right to equal access for all life saving medicines.

For further information, please contact Yogi Amin on yogi.amin@irwinmitchell.com or David Standard on david.standard@irwinmitchell.com.

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