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‘Postcode lottery’ for lifesaving therapy
9:29am Friday 20th April 2012 in Health & Wellbeing
THE Department of Health (DoH) said most neuroblastoma patients in the UK now had a chance undergo a procedure called monoclonal antibody treatment through medical trials.
A DoH spokesman said: “Most UK patients can now get access to monoclonal antibody treatment via a Cancer Research UK supported European trial announced in December 2009.
“We have provided funding support to establish a second trial for those few patients who do not meet the strict criteria for the main trial. The new trial is expected to begin in summer 2012.
“In the meantime, a similar trial is underway in Germany. Decisions on whether patients should be treated in Germany are taken locally, taking account of individual circumstances.”
The DoH said that because the National Institute for Clinical Excellence had not issued guidance on the use of monoclonal antibody treatment, any funding decisions should be made by local primary care trusts.
But a spokesman for the NHS North Yorkshire and York said that because there was currently no treatment to commission it could not make a decision.
Alison Moy, chief executive of the Neuroblastoma Alliance UK, said: “We would love to see the NHS offering the types of treatment available abroad in the UK. Failing that, more support from the NHS for funding treatment abroad for children with neuroblastoma would be extremely welcome. It seems very unfair that children don’t receive the same treatment from the NHS across the UK. There really is a postcode lottery in terms of receiving this potentially lifesaving treatment, which is something that the government urgently needs to address.”
Meanwhile, the Medical Trustees of the Neuroblastoma Society said jointly that the decision to take a child abroad for treatment for neuroblastoma was one best taken by the child’s family and the local paediatric oncologist caring for the child.
They said: “A lot of factors will have been taken into account in reaching that decision. Some children might be not be eligible for a certain treatment in the UK, for example immunotherapy. For other children, to go abroad will provide the opportunity to receive experimental therapies not available in the UK. “Unfortunately, with very few exceptions patients with recurrent high risk neuroblastoma will not survive their disease, but prolonged periods of disease control can be achieved in some cases, with treatments available both here in the UK and elsewhere.”
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