HEATON-HARRIS, Chris 26-Aug-08

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In 2007, I was contacted by a constituent who was suffering from a severe form of kidney cancer, but had been refused access by his NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) to a key anti-cancer drug - Sutent - which could have improved and prolonged his life. This was despite the fact that Sutent is available for prescription on the NHS - it has been authorised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E.), and is in fact handed out by many PCTs around the country, on a "post code lottery" basis, including some in the East Midlands, but not in Warwickshire, where my constituent's PCT was based.

I took up his case and read up on the disease at www.KidneyCancerResource.com, who were always willing to answer any questions I had, which I cross checked with Oncologists - this armed me to generate publicity and I wrote to the European Commission to ask for an investigation into the so-called "postcode lottery" of NHS drug availability. After a long campaign, Warwickshire PCT agreed to fund the prescription of Sutent to my constituent.

I was buoyed by this small success, but also extremely angry at the wider injustice of the whole "postcode lottery". The system basically means that, if one person lives just inside the border of one NHS Trust, and their neighbour, maybe only a matter of yards away, lives inside the border of the next-door Trust, one person could receive the key treatment (including vital anti-cancer drugs), and their neighbour would be denied it. This is nothing short of scandalous, and I intend to continue campaigning to put the "National" back in NHS when it comes to availability of this kind of key medication.

Since this case last year, I have been approached by several more people, both in the East Midlands and beyond. I am pressing the European Commission for an investigation under either anti-discrimination legislation, or in the field of injustices in the Health sector. I have also submitted amendments to a Parliamentary report here in Brussels on the subject of cancer care, and am collecting signatures of my fellow MEPs, as we speak, to try to include the "postcode lottery" scandal in this report, to put pressure on both the PCTs at home, and the European Commission out here, to end this grave error of judgement, and save more suffering of people who are denied access to drugs that are available to their fellow citizens.

The recent decision of NICE denying access to the kidney cancer medicines is nothing short of a scandal. Yes, they are expensive drugs, but as I look around at the waste and profligacy this government leaves in its wake and I ask myself how they can have the cheek to deny hard-working taxpayers the access to medicines that are essential for their health, especially when most of them have paid for the medicines with their taxes hundreds of times over. KidneyCancerResource.com is doing great work, and I wish I could be with you all at the N.I.C.E. Headquarters myself.

I will keep putting pressure on the European Commission out here in Brussels, and the best of luck to everyone back in the UK campaigning against this unfair and unethical postcode lottery.>>

Chris Heaton-Harris MEP

Conservative Spokesman on Culture, Education & Sport

ASP 14E 161

European Parliament

Rue Wiertz 60



Tel: +3222847523

Fax: +3222849523


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