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Women Win Legal Battle Over Treatment Of Breast Cancer

For many hundreds of women’s fight against the cancer of breast the ruling by the courts has opened means of treatment. Three senior Court of Appeal judges said // yesterday that the policy adopted by the Swindon NHS Primary Care Trust, of funding treatment with the drug Herceptin only in "exceptional circumstances", was irrational because it was not supported by any personal or clinical distinctions among eligible patients. The trust itself had insisted that financial considerations did not underlie its policy.

Ann Marie Rogers, a breast cancer patient, has won a landmark ruling that her local hospital acted unlawfully in refusing to supply her with a potentially life-saving treatment.

Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, welcoming the judgment, said that, it could be hoped that this would send out clear messages to all PCTs, that Herceptin should be prescribed on the basis of clinical need, not cost. Herceptin is already being licensed for use in women with advanced breast cancer, and studies show that it may also be effective in preventing a recurrence of early-stage forms of the disease. The makers, of the drug, Roche, have claimed to have applied for a licence for early-stage treatment with Herceptin and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has agreed to fast-track its appraisal of which patients should receive it on the NHS, but these two decisions are not expected until later this year. Till such time the PCTs have been told to act at their own discretion, and this has lead to widespread disparities in who receives the drug. It has been found in survey that only 10 % of eligible patients in some areas are given access to Herceptin, compared to 90% in others.

The ruling stated that it is now a matter for the PCT to reconsider its policy and to formulate a lawful policy upon which to base decisions in particular cases. The chief executive of Swindon Primary Care Trust, said, that they we
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