Cancer patients could be offered or refused life-changing and often expensive drugs to help with their treatment based on where they live, a BBC report finds.
Cancer drugs are not always readily available on the NHS
The report was featured on The Wales Report and discussed the story of two friends Jean Hall and Annie Mulholland who both had advanced ovarian cancer. Despite living just 40 miles apart, Jean was offered the drug Avastin on the NHS whilst Annie was denied the revolutionary drug that improves and prolongs life.
Ms. Hall said: “I think it’s phenomenal that we’re getting it here [Neath in Swansea] and I don’t see why other health boards can’t give it as well.”
In England there’s a cancer drug fund that helps pay for treatments not usually available through the NHS. This prompted Annie to move in-part to London to take advantage of the fund and hopefully improve her chances of recovery.
Ms. Mulholland said: “I’m taking pretty drastic steps, it involves a lot of travel, expense and some distress because as a cancer patient it’s not the best situation to be in.”
Access to unapproved cancer drugs appears to be a postcode lottery and patients want to know how they can appeal for these treatments.
Helen Callaghan, the BBC reporter investigating Annie and Jean’s story, said: “Under the current system, any patient living anywhere in Wales can try to get access to an unapproved drug or treatment by making an individual patient funding request.
“In essence, they have to try and convince a panel that their case is exceptional. There are seven panels – one for each health board in Wales.”
The system has been labelled as ‘unfair’ as patients have to appeal to a local panel who decides whether they are eligible for treatment. These panels have varying levels of acceptance rates with the Cardiff and Vale Health Board accepting just 33% of all claims made, the lowest rate in Wales.
The Wales Report is hosted by Huw Edwards was broadcast on BBC 1 Wales and investigates issues affecting life in Wales.
The NHS continues to put patients first and tries to be as transparent and accepting as possible with regards to access to cancer drugs.
However, if you feel you wanted more reassurance some health insurance policies include comprehensive cancer care and can give you access to cancer drugs as part of your cover.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013