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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Woman appeals in Herceptin battle
Ann Marie Rogers
Ann Marie Rogers is in the early stages of breast cancer
A breast cancer patient is taking her fight for the right to receive the drug Herceptin to the Court of Appeal.

Ann Marie Rogers, 54, from Swindon, Wiltshire, lost a landmark legal case last month after her case was heard in the High Court.

The judge ruled Swindon Primary Care Trust did not act unlawfully in not allowing the mother-of-three the drug.

Mrs Rogers, who has been receiving treatment until the hearing, says her situation is "a death sentence".

I am facing a death sentence if I cannot receive Herceptin
Ann Marie Rogers

Herceptin targets the HER-2 protein, which can fuel the growth of breast tumours.

Around a fifth of breast cancers are HER-2 positive.

The treatment is currently licensed for the treatment of advanced breast cancer.

Research has also suggested that it could help women like Mrs Rogers, who has early-stage cancer.

But it has not yet been licensed or approved for this purpose.

Court 'no policy decision'

Makers Roche submitted their application for a licence to European drug authorities in February.

Once that has been granted, the NHS drugs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), said it will fast-track its appraisal if Herceptin is cost-effective

That process is set to be complete later this year.

During the High Court case, Swindon Primary Care Trust said it could not prescribe the drug because it had not been approved as a treatment or its safety and benefit been checked.

Managers argued they would only fund the course of treatment if they felt the patient was 'exceptional'.

But they said the decision had not been made on the basis of economics.

Making his ruling, Mr Justice Bean said he knew there were different opinions on whether or not to prescribe Herceptin to patients with early-stage breast cancer.

But he added: "The court's task is not to say which policy is better, but to decide whether Swindon's policy is arbitrary or irrational and thus unlawful."

Full treatment with Herceptin costs an estimated 20,000 a year.

Bureaucracy

Ms Rogers said: "I am facing a death sentence if I cannot receive Herceptin.

"This battle against the bureaucracy created by hospital managers to receive the drug that my clinician has prescribed for me, has taken its toll and I am placing my faith in the court."

Ms Rogers' solictor Yogi Amin, of the firm Irwin Mitchell, said health authorities across the country were able to adopt different policies on whether or not to prescribe Herceptin.

He called on the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to end what he called a "grossly unfair postcode lottery".

"Breast cancer patients want to ensure that their access to life saving drugs, which their doctors prescribe, will not be overruled by a group of financial managers who decide whether they can be deemed an 'exceptional' person and that their life is 'exceptional' in some way.

"There is no good reason for the health authority to ration this essential drug treatment."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The background to the case



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