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Woman loses Herceptin battle

16th February 2006

A woman suffering from early-stage breast cancer has lost a legal battle to force her health authority to treat her with Herceptin.

High court judge Mr Justice Bean ruled this morning that that Swindon primary care trust (PCT) in Wiltshire did not need to pay for Ann Marie Rogers, 54, to be treated with the drug, which can cost up to ?20,000 for one year of treatment.

Mr Justice Bean said he was sympathetic to Ms Rogers’ situation but had to base his decision solely on whether or not he felt her PCT’s decision was unlawful.

When the judge made his ruling Ms Rogers shook her head and looked downwards. She has been given leave to appeal.

Herceptin is said to halve the chance of the aggressive HER-2 form of breast cancer returning, but has not been licensed for use in women with early stage cancer.

However, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines say it can be given to patients under “exceptional circumstances”. The ruling said the PCT’s decision to deny the drug was in line with official advice.

In a statement issued on her behalf by her lawyer Yogi Amin, Ms Rogers confirmed her intention to appeal against the decision.

“Ann Marie Rogers is devastated by the decision but determined to take her fight on,” Mr Amin said.

Her lawyer added that the judge said that health secretary Patricia Hewitt’s direction to PCTs to prescribe the drug was not legally binding but that Ms Rogers feels that the hopes of many breast cancer sufferers had been “built up” by her comments.

Ms Rogers, a former restaurant manager from Haydon Wick, Swindon, borrowed ?5,000 to fund the treatment but could not afford the pay for further courses.

She is the first woman to take her case to gain access to the drug to the high court. Previously, two other women had threatened legal action against their PCTs for denying them the drug but the trusts decided to fund the drug before their cases reached court.

Nice has said Herceptin is one of the drugs which has been selected for fast-track approval.

Some trusts have decided to fund the expensive treatment while others have been hesitant to do so because it has not yet been licensed in the usual way.

track© Adfero Ltd

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