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Mc Guinness questions contradictory position on Cancer Drug by Health Service

21 October, 2005

Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness has questioned the contradictory position of the Health Service regarding the reasons why the potentially life saving Cancer drug 'Herceptin' is not available to patients in the early stages of Breast Cancer.

In his ongoing campaign to have the drug made available Mr. McGuinness commented

"I accept the Department is committed to improving access to medicines that offer the potential for significant improvement in patient care. But what I can't understand is the contradictions in its comments. On the one hand it claims that it cannot prescribe Herceptin because it has not been approved by NICE then it goes on to state that NICE guidance does not automatically apply here. Could this be the explanation for the confusing situation whereby all women diagnosed with breast cancer here are automatically tested for suitability for Herceptin thereby raising expectations but then told that it is only available in the later stages of cancer or on the payment of £25,000.

"I must say that I am confused at the perception that if you can afford to pay that Herceptin is available even at the early stages of cancer if it has not been licensed. Either it is approved or it isn't. And if it is approved it should be available to all. If it is not approved then it begs the question is it correct that it will be administered even in the early stages on payment of £25,000 and if so is this ethical?" ENDS

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