UK cancer patient goes to court for drug
Ann Marie Rogers, 53, was refused the drug at care centre in Wiltshire which said it would not fund her treatment, costing #20,000.india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 20:28 IST
A woman with early-stage breast cancer goes to the High Court on Monday to compel her local health authority to pay for the potentially life-saving drug Herceptin.
Ann Marie Rogers, 53, was refused the drug after Swindon Primary Care Trust in Wiltshire said it would not fund the treatment, which costs around 20,000 pounds ($36,000) a year.
This is the first challenge over Herceptin treatment to reach the High Court and could set a precedent for patients seeking access to the drug and other expensive treatments currently not normally available on the National Health Service.
"I think it's down to money and I think they put money before life," Rogers told the BBC.
Herceptin, made by Switzerland's Roche, is currently only licensed for use in women with advanced breast cancer, although doctors can use their discretion to prescribe the drug in other cases.
Recent research has shown Herceptin can help patients with early stages of breast cancer, but many local health authorities will only fund treatment in exceptional circumstances.
Rogers' lawyer, Yogi Amin, said her consultant had concluded she would benefit from the drug but that Swindon PCT would not pay for treatment as she was not an exceptional case.
"The trust has adopted a policy which tries to pit one patient against another," he said.
"They are effectively looking at the personal family circumstances of each case and suggesting which life is better than another."
Last year, two other early stage breast cancer sufferers threatened to go to court over access to Herceptin treatment before their local health authorities backed down.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has ordered Britain's drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, to speed up its assessment of wider use of the drug.
In October, Hewitt said that all women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer would be tested for suitability for Herceptin.
She said this could potentially save the lives of 1,000 women a year but at a significant price to the NHS -- Hewitt said the drug programme would cost 100 million pounds a year.