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Life-extending cancer drugs 'rationed by postcode': Dozens of hospitals refuse to hand out treamentsDozens of trusts failing to hand out treatments for bowel, ovarian, lung and brain cancerSome of the drugs boost survival rates by a quarter and others extend lives
23:50 GMT, 10 January 2013
03:05 GMT, 11 January 2013
Hospitals are denying patients the latest life-extending cancer drugs, a report reveals.
Dozens of trusts are failing to hand out treatments for bowel, ovarian, lung and brain cancer that have been approved by the NHS watchdog NICE.
Some of these drugs have been shown to boost survival rates by a quarter while others have extended the lives of terminally-ill patients by over a year.
Dozens of trusts are failing to hand out life-extending cancer drugs as well as treatments for heart attacks, asthma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and Crohn's Disease
The report – commissioned by the Department of Health – also reveals that many hospitals are failing to prescribe the latest treatments for heart attacks, asthma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and Crohn’s Disease.
In fact some of the drugs were approved for use by NICE more than seven years ago.
Ministers and charities say it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that patients are being denied drugs that could extend their lives or drastically improve their symptoms.
The report also reveals huge variation between hospitals with some routinely prescribing these new treatments while others have not offered them to anyone at all.
It is unclear why some hospitals are refusing to provide the new drugs but it may be that doctors prefer to use existing treatments they have trusted over the years.
Health minister, Lord Howe, said: ‘Patients have a right to medicines and treatments that have been approved by NICE and are clinically appropriate for them, and it is completely unacceptable if this is not happening.
The report shows how frequently treatments approved by NICE are being prescribed by hospitals and GPs
‘We are determined to drive out unjustified variation.’
And Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive of the Rarer Cancers Foundation said: ‘NICE was meant to end the postcode lottery but these figures show that it is alive and well.
‘Access to drugs should not depend on where you live or in which hospital you are treated.
‘The NHS needs to act urgently to tackle these inequalities which are resulting in patients missing out on treatment which could save, extend or improve their lives.’
The report – published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre – shows how frequently treatments approved by NICE are being prescribed by hospitals and GPs.
Officials insist that the data is ‘experimental’ – and has never been collected in this way before – so it is too early to draw any firm conclusions.
Nonetheless, it reveals that one drug for advanced bowel cancer is not being used by at least 25 hospital trusts – even though it was approved by NICE in 2006.
And at least 24 trusts are not giving women with advanced ovarian cancer the drug Paclitaxel, even though it could extend their lives by an extra year.
The drug was approved by NICE in 2005, more than seven years ago.
Another 15 trusts are refusing to give lung cancer patients Erlonitib – approved by NICE in 2008 – which halts the progression of tumours for more than a year.
Dozens of hospitals were also failing to prescribe treatments for brain cancer, severe asthma, Crohn’s Disease, the prevention of heart attacks and multiple sclerosis.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Patients have the right to drugs and treatments that have been recommended by NICE for use in the NHS, if their doctor says they are clinically appropriate.
‘Any perception that there is a rationing of NICE approved medication taking place at a local level is a real concern.’