Breast cancer drug
Yogi Amin from Irwin Mitchell, the solicitor who successfully represented Ann Marie Rogers in her long legal battle for the life saving drug Herceptin has today welcomed the news that the drug has been backed for use in early stages of the disease by European regulators, but warned that the wider issue of funding life saving drugs by PCTs would not go away.
Ann Marie Rogers success in the landmark case earlier this month marked the first time a persons right to receive Herceptin had been fully considered by the courts. Her Primary Care Trust, Swindon PCT, argued that they would only fund the course of treatment if they felt the patient was exceptional. However the Court of Appeal found that their decision to deny Ms Rogers the drug was irrational and unlawful.
Mr Amin said "I am delighted that the drug, which could be licensed in as soon as 90 days, has received a positive recommendation from the European regulators. This will bring continued hope for many breast cancer sufferers who have had to face the fight for this drug which has been prescribed by their doctor, but denied them by their PCT."
No funding for drugs
However Mr Amin added "We are also acting for a number of individuals who are fighting cancer, and battling for similar life saving drugs that their Oncologists want them to have, but which their PCT fail to fund. These include Tarceva, a drug which alleviates the symptoms of lung cancer and prolongs a patients life.
"There is clearly a wider issue connected to funding treatment and it will not go away with the licensing of Herceptin."
The Herceptin case
Herceptin is a drug that, according to evidence halves the chances of the aggressive HER-2 form of the disease returning. If the disease returns it will kill her.
Despite her clinician (consultant oncologist) prescribing her the drug treatment, Ann Marie was denied the drug on grounds of a lack of regulatory approval and alleged lack of exceptional circumstances.
Guidelines have been issued by the NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) (3) on the safe use of the drug in early stage breast cancer patients. The Department of Health has issued this guidance to all health authorities.
Hospital managers overruled the decision of the specialist doctors in this case. They also ignored the view of the Governments National Cancer Tzar, Professor Mike Richards, who gave evidence to the court that in his opinion all women in Ms Rogers circumstances should be considered exceptional cases.
A recent report (4) released by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts in January 2006 identified that even cases of cancer for which the drug is licensed and approved by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) the chances of survival are dictated by a postcode lottery in drug treatment. The report states the use of the drug Herceptin for mestatic breast cancer in the 6 month period 12 to 18 months following NICE approval in early 2002 ranged across cancer networks from 90% to under 10% of eligible women
Do you have a claim? If you or someone you know has been effected by a similar case of being denied drugs for treatment, our solicitors can help. Visit our public law section.