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Tens of thousands of cancer victims denied drugs which could extend their lives

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July 14, 2008

Tens of thousands of cancer victims denied drugs which could extend their lives

More than 120,000 cancer victims die early every year after being denied drugs that could have extended their lives, leading doctors are warning.

A dossier to be submitted to the Government's review of drug funding identifies 136,000 British patients a year who could benefit from 10 cancer treatments which are commonly available across Western Europe, but rarely funded by the NHS. Estimates show that fewer than 5 per cent are receiving the drugs, with many of those who get them paying privately.

The report, Paying for Cancer Care, by the oncologist Prof Karol Sikora, says demand is such that ministers must change rules that penalise desperate patients who pay for the drugs.
Treatments he examined include the bowel cancer drugs Avastin and Erbitux, which could extend the lives of 50,000 people by three to six months. The drugs have been rejected by the rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), because of costs of between £50,000 and £60,000 per patient. Two other drugs, Sutent, for advanced kidney cancer, and Tarceva, for lung cancer, which have yet to be assessed by Nice, could extend the lives of 35,000 patients for up to six months.

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