NHS resources given as reason to prevent doctors prescribing Tarceva

Tarceva not recommended

13.11.2006

Lawyers for Linda Gordon (47) who is suffering from lung cancer have today expressed their concern as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced that it ds not recommend either Tarceva (erlotinib) or Alimta (pemetrexed), saying that they would not be a good use of NHS resources.

This initial guidance, which is now open to consultation, could see thousands of people denied a drug prescribed to them by their doctor.

Irwin Mitchell, the law firm that successfully fought for Ann Marie Rogers to get the breast cancer drug Herceptin, is currently fighting the decision by Ms Gordon's Primary Care Trust (PCT) to deny her the drug. They have vowed to continue to fight in a bid for her to receive Tarceva, which her doctor has prescribed for her.

Ms Gordon, who has two daughters Charlie (28) and Jody (20), has been forced to fund an initial dose of this drug herself as she has been refused funding by Bromley PCT. A life-long non-smoker, Ms Gordon was described by her consultant oncologist, Dr Prendiville, as 'absolutely the ideal patient to be treated with this agent [Tarceva]'

The "ideal patient" for Tarceva

An independent report by Dr Jeremy Steele a consultant thoracic oncologist has confirmed that Ms Gordon is the ideal patient for the drug which could extend her life for up to 18 months. Dr Steele states in the report that a number of factors including being female, young, fit and a non-smoker place Ms Gordon in a small minority of lung cancer patients who are likely to benefit most strongly from the treatment.

Large-scale clinical trials and case studies have shown that for those who respond well to the treatment it can have outstanding results in terms of fighting the progression of the disease and significantly reducing the pain and other symptoms suffered by patients in the advanced stages of lung cancer.

Ms Gordon said "It's unbelievable that NHS resources can be given as the reason to deny me the drugs that my doctor thinks I should have. I have already been forced to fund a course of the drug and the difference it has made to my life has been incredible."

"Before taking Tarveva I was breathless and couldn't even have a normal conversation or eat without coughing continuously. The effects were so bad that I would choke on my food, that doesn't happen at all now. My quality of life has improved so much and that is not only good for me but also less stressful for my relatives."

She added "What I fear most is that people are going to give up on cancer research. If people lose the will to research and develop cures for this disease then the effect will be catastrophic. I have already heard of people not giving to Cancer research because even when there's a breakthrough, such as Tarceva, it isn't funded and provided to those that are prescribed it.

If you or someone you know has been denied Tarceva or any treatment your doctor prescribed, our solicitors may be able to help with legal action. Visit our public law section.