NEWSDRUG FUNDING

Published: 08/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5985 Page 6

Eastern Birmingham primary care trust chief executive Sophia Christie has called on health secretary Patricia Hewitt to choose which specialist services PCTs should cut if they are to follow her order to fund the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

Ms Christie, who is also chair of the Birmingham and Solihull specialist commissioning network, said her area was planning on sticking to funding allocation decisions taken by the network at the start of the financial year, based on the needs of the whole population.

Christie asked if Ms Hewitt was going to tell PCTs which other specialist services - such as 'specialist child services, cardiac, other cancer services or long-term conditions' should be cut to fund Herceptin mid-year.

Cash-strapped PCTs across the country are being obliged to fund the drug treatment, which is unlicensed for early-stage breast cancer, following an intervention by Ms Hewitt.

PCTs in Cambridgeshire, Manchester, Rutland, Northampton, Leicestershire, Cheshire and Shropshire have all agreed to pay for eligible patients' treatment with Herceptin, and others are expected to follow.

Ms Hewitt told PCTs in October to fund the estimated£21,000 a year per patient treatment if based on sound clinical judgement.

She added that PCTs must not refuse treatment 'for cost reasons alone'. The move followed sustained media coverage since the summer of campaigning for the drug by patients in Somerset and Stoke.