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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 10:40 GMT
'Cancer patients denied best treatments'

Taxol Taxol is proven to be effective


Cancer patients are being denied access to effective cancer treatments such as the ovarian cancer drug Taxol, according to a report by an influential charity.

CancerBACUP warns that urgent action must be taken to ensure that all cancer patients receive the best available treatments on the NHS.



Official guidelines and recommendations must be updated and implemented quickly to avoid delays in access to innovative treatments
Jean Mossman, chief executive, CancerBACUP
In its report, "Living with Cancer in the Twenty First Century", the charity acknowledges that the government has put measures in place to ensure suspected cancer patients see a specialist within two weeks of a GP referral.

But it warns that these measures will have limited effect if high quality treatment is subsequently denied to patients.

Research commissioned by the charity reveals that a third of health authorities are not intending to make a written commitment to funding the drug Taxol (from the class of drugs known as the taxanes) as a treatment for all women with ovarian cancer who will benefit from it.

Guidance due



Taxol should without question be readily available as there is so much good evidence from international trials that it benefits women with ovarian cancer
Dr Kate Law, Cancer Research Campaign
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is due to publish recommendations on NHS use of taxanes in the spring.

But recent guidance both from the National Cancer Guidelines Steering Group and the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination has already recommended that two types of Taxol, paclitaxel and platinum should be the first-line treatment for ovarian cancer.

All health authorities in England said that they were aware of this guidance.

The new research also found that less than 40% of Health Authorities held information on how many women with ovarian cancer had received the recommended first-line paclitaxel/platinum treatment.

CancerBACUP insists that all Health Authorities should be aware of the types of treatment NHS cancer patients are receiving, and have explicit policies on what cancer patients are entitled to expect.

The charity has called for part of the new cash promised by the government for cancer services to be ring-fenced for treatments that have been scientifically proven to be effective.

Innovative treatments

CancerBACUP Chief Executive Jean Mossman said "Official guidelines and recommendations must be updated and implemented quickly to avoid delays in access to innovative treatments.

"The difficulties NHS patients have experienced in getting paclitaxel, or in the provision of advanced radiotherapy for lung cancer, typify the problems that may otherwise occur in the future."

Dr Kate Law, head of clinical programmes for the Cancer Research Campaign, said the time to pass judgement on health authorities was after NICE had made a decision on Taxol, not before.

But she added: "Taxol should without question be readily available as there is so much good evidence from international trials that it benefits women with ovarian cancer.

"It is disgraceful that it is not always available, and the fact that it is denied to some people causes untold distress."

Professor Peter Selby, director of clinical research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said the research proved that cancer services were "still patchy" in the UK.

He called for more money for new equipment, more specialised staff and funding for drugs proven to be effective.

"Colleagues in other major European and North American countries cannot believe some of the delays and inequalities that occur within the NHS. In other countries it would be inconceivable that patients should not have access to the best possible treatment and care on account of where they live."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government was awaiting the recommendations of NICE.

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See also:
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