Wednesday, June 27, 2007

British mother denied cancer drug -- has to sell her house

It's very pesky trying to cash in on your health insurance when the government is the insurer. What if she did not have a house to sell? Tough luck!

A mother has been forced to sell her home to pay for private treatment with a cancer "wonder drug" after funding for it was denied. Debbie Mitchell, 39, said she was "left to sit in the corner and die" after her local primary care trust refused to pay for Sutent for her stomach cancer. The drug costs 2,500 pounds a month and to pay for it she and her partner John Forrester have now had to sell their 340,000 four-bedroom detached home in the Staffordshire village of Derrington.

"It's heartbreaking," she said. "We built the house ourselves from scratch - it's our dream home. "We love the house, we love the village, we love the people, but we've been left with no alternative. "I can't believe it's come to this. We live in such a cruel world."

Miss Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, and had 40 per cent of her stomach removed. In May last year she received the devastating news that the disease had returned in the form of GIST (gastrointestinal stomal), a rare mutating cancer. South Staffordshire PCT paid for her to be put on the drug Glivec, even funding a double dose for her which would cost 58,000 for a year's treatment. But in February, cancer specialists treating her said her tumours were still growing and recommended Sutent, which has been shown to shrink tumours dramatically and can prolong life for two years or more.

The drug, which is widely prescribed throughout Europe and the U.S., has already been licensed for use in Britain. But it has yet to be approved by the Government's drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Until NICE guidelines are introduced, it is up to primary care trusts to decide whether to fund treatment with Sutent. It is funded in parts of Britain, but Miss Mitchell's PCT refused to pay for it on the grounds of cost and clinical effectiveness.

Its decision came even though, at 29,000 a year, it is cheaper than the double dose course of Glivec. Some experts also estimate Sutent has a 50 per cent chance of working on tumours whereas Glivec has only five per cent. "I can't take it, there's no logic there," said Miss Mitchell. "It is a postcode lottery whether you receive Sutent or not. "We all put money into the NHS pot and therefore we should all be allowed the same treatment. "My oncologists have written to the PCT, saying that I should be given the drug. Yet the PCT has not bothered to look into the circumstances of my condition, despite all the evidence. "What's the point in developing these drugs if they're not going to be used?"

She and Mr Forrester, 37, who co-own a limousine hire company, will move next month with her 18-year- old daughter Amy to a smaller 240,000 pound house they have bought in nearby Stafford. Mr Forrester's four children stay with the couple every other weekend. Miss Mitchell said: "We'll still have a mortgage because the money we've made off our house is going toward the cost of the treatment. "We've got enough money for a couple of years of the drug at the moment. After that we'll have to remortgage the new house."

In a letter sent to Miss Mitchell, the PCT defended its decision saying: "The request for treatment was turned down due to lack of evidence of clinical and cost-effectiveness."


South Australian public health system in big trouble

SOUTH Australian psychiatrists have threatened to resign en masse from the state system next week, dramatically widening the public sector revolt against the Rann Government's bid to rein in costs and pay growth. Up to 50 psychiatrists are believed to be ready to quit the system on Monday if the Government does not fund 20 extra specialists to provide what their union calls a "minimum" adequate level of service and pay.

Treasurer Kevin Foley sought to rein in public sector unions last month by warning a wage breakout would tear a $190million hole in the budget if it was 1 per cent above what the Government had allowed for.

Public sector psychiatrists have now joined teachers, ambulance officers, nurses and dentists in threatening industrial action to back their demands for more financial resources than the Government is willing to commit. "This is not some idle threat, dangling out there to impress people," said Andrew Murray from the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, the union representing the mental health sector. In other industrial moves:

* South Australian dentists in the public system - seeking a 35per cent pay rise over three years - took unprecedented industrial action by refusing to charge public patients gap fees.

* State schools will shut early on Thursday to allow teachers to deliver protest letters to their local MPs.

* Ambulance officers could introduce work bans today.

Mental Health Minister Gail Gago said negotiations with psychiatrists were at an "extremely sensitive stage".



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: