Lung cancer drug
A High Court judge today ordered a health trust to look again at its decision to refuse a lung cancer victim a potentially life-extending drug on the NHS.
Mother-of-two Linda Gordon, 47, took legal action to seek a judicial review of the refusal of Bromley NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) to provide the drug Tarceva.
Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, today ruled that the PCT "ought to consider afresh as soon as possible the real issue that arises in this case".
The real issue that had to be "grappled" with, he said, was whether the trust would refuse treatment with the drug even if a trial were successful.
He said: "It would be to raise false hopes to have a trial and then say 'well the results really don't affect our decision'."
But the judge stressed: "I emphasise that the claimant may well find it impossible to challenge a refusal of further funding, even on a trial basis, if the decision is explained and grapples with the relevant issues."
An interim order had already been approved requiring Bromley PCT to fund the drug from Friday August 25
Lung cancer drug to be funded over eight week period
Today the judge said it should continue to fund the drug until the conclusion of an eight-week period.
The judge was told at a hearing yesterday that the drug had not yet been officially approved for prescription on the NHS and assessment was not due to be completed until September next year.
He said that Ms Gordon should not have "unrealistic expectations as a result of the modest success which she has achieved here".
Ms Gordon, who has two daughters, Charlie, 28, and Jody 20, funded an initial course of the drug herself.
A life-long non-smoker, she has been described in an independent report by consultant thoracic oncologist Dr Jeremy Steele as an ideal patient for the drug, which could extend her life for up to 18 months.
Dr Steele stated that a number of factors, including being female, young, fit and a non-smoker, placed Ms Gordon in a small minority of lung cancer patients who were likely to benefit most from the treatment.
Ms Gordon's solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, say that 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.
Positive feedback on lung cancer drug
Ms Gordon says that the few weeks of taking the tablets she has been able to afford have made an incredible difference to her symptoms and given her a new lease of life.
She believes this shows the treatment is acting to shrink the tumours, as has been the case for other patients treated with the drug.
Ms Gordon's solicitor, Yogi Amin, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said after the ruling: "The court found that it was arguable to say that the PCT's decision was flawed and that it would have to be looked at again.
"What then transpired was that Bromley had agreed to fund the treatment for the next stage of her cancer.
"She is absolutely delighted about that. She has achieved what she wanted."
He said she would be willing to return to court if necessary to fight for further funding.
Ms Gordon said: "I am delighted that I will receive the drug treatment that my doctor says that I need. Bromley PCT were wrong to refuse to fund the treatment."