Nice Boss Calls For Drug Lottery Action

Postcode lottery

19.08.2008

The head of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has called for local healthcare trusts to show more consistency to help end the postcode lottery row over drug treatment.

Chief executive Andrew Dillon told BBC's Panorama: "It shouldn't make any difference where you live.

"There ought to be a common basis for making decisions about exceptional circumstances and I think anybody who uses the NHS for their care is entitled to expect that."

Mr Dillon called for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to be consistent when deciding whether to make funds available for medicines.

His comments follow growing public anger over the number of treatments being blocked by NICE.

NHS trusts have a legal obligation to provide treatments approved by NICE. But, in the absence of such approval, a patient must appeal to a committee at the local trust which can choose to fund it as an exceptional case.

Those who are refused must settle for a less effective treatment or pay privately for the drugs, which carries the risk of having any other NHS care withdrawn.

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Yogi Amin from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "The patients that we represent have suffered injustice when having to battle the PCT postcode lottery. We have been successful in arguing that some PCT policies are flawed and in some cases we have brokered a deal on behalf of the patient between the PCT and the drug manufacturer so that the drug treatment would be available on the NHS before a ruling by NICE. If there was a uniform criteria on exceptional circumstances for PCTs across the country then the patients would know where they stood."