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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 September 2007, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Challenge to NHS funding lottery
Tablets (generic)
Sutent helps with the symptoms of kidney and gastrointestinal cancer
The European Commission has been asked to investigate whether a local health authority can refuse to pay for drugs when funding is available elsewhere.

Tory MEP Chris Heaton-Harris claims the so-called NHS post-code lottery breaks European anti-discrimination laws.

He is representing a Rugby man who pays thousands for cancer drugs because his primary care trust has refused, saying their effectiveness is limited.

Warwickshire PCT said the decision was not made on the basis of cost.

The life-extending drugs are funded by PCTs elsewhere in the country.

Without it I will die sooner than I would
Russ Jones

Mr Heaton-Harris, who represents the East Midlands, has asked the European Commission to investigate the case of Russ Jones, a constituent who is dying from a rare form of abdominal cancer.

Mr Jones pays 3,500 a month for his daily tablets of Sutent, a drug he says will allow him to live longer. In other parts of the country the drug is available on the NHS.

Mr Jones told BBC News 24: "I know there's not much else for me, and this is the only chance that is available."

"Without it I will die sooner than I would."

Mr Heaton-Harris said: "If you're being withheld treatment because of where you live, it could be similar as being denied treatment because of your religion or colour."

'Individual basis'

In a statement, a spokesman for Warwickshire PCT said: "Warwickshire Primary Care Trust have a duty for ensuring all its resident population are in receipt of health care services.

These decisions are never made without a lot of thought and consideration
Warwickshire PCT

"The main focus for the Individual Cases Panel was to consider the outcome for Mr Jones, and was not concerned with creating a precedent for the PCT that would be unaffordable.

"These decisions are never made without a lot of thought and consideration, and each case is considered on an individual basis."

The Department of Health said that not only was it unacceptable for trusts to refuse treatment that has already been licensed elsewhere, but they should not refuse to pay because a drug is too expensive.

The post-code lottery in drug funding has seen patients being treated alongside each other in the same hospital, but with different levels of NHS funding.

Russ Jones is dying from a rare type of cancer

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