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Cancer Patients Protest For Free Drug Treatment

Margaret Bradford, from Oswestry, a patient with breast cancer in England has started a protest after news that patients in Welsh are given free drug treatment// at a hospital. Local health boards in Wales fund treatment for Herceptin in full, unlike the Shropshire Primary Care Trust. The patients in Shropshire have to pay an amount of £47,000 bill is staging a protest at the hospital on Monday.

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson said that breast cancer patients from Wales are getting the potentially life-saving drug free at a hospital while their English patients have to pay. Welsh women do not have to pay for Herceptin at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, which provides acute care for people in north Shropshire and mid-Wales, because it is funded by their local health board. But patients in the early stages of the illness who live over the border must pay £47,000 themselves because their primary care trust will not foot the bill, Owen Paterson, said.

Stating that the situation was a "classic postcode lottery" Mr Paterson said that he would contact Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to express his disgust. He said that all these women in Shropshire too have paid their taxes but yet they have to raise huge sums of money for treatment while women from two miles away in Wales are getting the drug in the same hospital for free. The 544-bed Royal Shrewsbury Hospital provides acute care for people in north Shropshire and mid Wales. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has meanwhile urged the primary care trusts (PCT) not refuse Herceptin treatment on the basis of cost.

A group of cancer patients from Shropshire have said they intend to take their fight to be given Herceptin to the European courts. Certain health authorities have approved funding for the treatment of early stage cancer, while others have not. The Shropshire PCT claims to be waiting for the drug to be licensed for treating, early stage breast cancer before it approves funding. A W elsh Assembly spokesman said Herceptin was available as a case-by-case basis on the NHS if a doctor believed that the patient would benefit from it.

Since February, all Welsh local health boards have agreed to pay for the drug for women living in Wales, even if they are treated in England, if their doctor recommends it and they meet the clinical prescribing guidelines for Herceptin.

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