An experimental technique to make brain tumours glow is being tested in clinical trials in the UK, and could soon be used to aid surgeons across the country. But many private medical insurance customers are unaware of whether their policy covers unproven treatments like this.
A new trial called GALA-5 will involve at least 60 patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common primary malignant brain tumour in adults. Participants will receive a treatment called 5-amino-levulinic acid, which makes the tumour glow under UV light during surgery. The glowing edges will enable surgeons to remove it more accurately.
A drug soaked wafer will then be placed in the remaining cavity, slowly releasing chemotherapy drugs over 4 to 6 weeks and killing any remaining cancer cells. If a combination of the two therapies is found to be safe and effective, the pioneering technique will be followed by a larger phase III trial.
But until the GALA-5 technique has been approved and marketed, it will be considered ‘experimental treatment’.
Whilst private medical insurance customers often have access to surgery not available on the NHS, not all policies will cover unproven treatment.
For instance, PruHealth will not pay for any treatment or drug therapy which is considered to be experimental, or for which there is insufficient evidence of safety or effectiveness. Similarly, Bupa does not pay for unproven treatment, unless it is part of a clinical trial which the company has approved.
From January 1 2012, any policies taken out with Aviva will cover experimental treatment in full if there is enough medical information to support their use. In this case, Aviva will pay the equivalent cost of the established treatment in the UK.
But even if your private medical insurance policy does not cover experimental treatment, you could still have access to the GALA-5 procedure in the future. Richard Theo, managing director of ActiveQuote, explains:
“Once the GALA-5 trial is found to be safe and effective, it will be approved and licensed for widespread public health use. At this point, many patients with comprehensive cancer cover will have access to this treatment on their policy.
“Private medical insurance is not designed to cover pre-existing conditions, so if people want to be covered for brain cancer treatment they should purchase a policy as an investment for their future.”
ActiveQuote is the only website in the UK which instantly compares health insurance quotes from all leading insurers, and shows exactly which cancer treatments are covered by each policy.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2011