Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 16:15 UK

Pensioners win sight drug battle

Raymond Liggins
Raymond Liggins was one of those who went to court

Three pensioners have won their High Court battle to receive a "sight-saving" drug - paving the way for others to be given it too.

Warwickshire Primary Care Trust said it would now fund the drug, Lucentis.

The move came after maker Novartis agreed to start a "cost-sharing" deal earlier than expected.

The RNIB said there was now no excuse for the NHS in England to restrict access to the drug, which treats age-related macular degeneration.

For other PCTs currently denying sight-saving treatment to patients in their care, our message is clear - change your policy now
Steve Winyard

The charity has accused several primary care trusts of unfairly denying people Lucentis, also called ranibizumab, even though it is becoming more freely available in other parts of the UK.

Draft guidance issued by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended using the drug, as long as the NHS only has to pay a maximum of 21,000 for each patient over a two year period.

Warwickshire initially refused to fund Lucentis, prompting the court case, because this "cost-sharing" deal was due to start only on the publication of the final NICE guidance later this month.

The agreement announced today means Novartis will start cost-sharing immediately with Warwickshire, and it extended the same offer to other PCTs in England.

The High Court case is now likely to be settled without the need for a ruling.

It was brought by Jean Middleton, 78, from Kingsbury, Raymond Liggins, 76, from Nuneaton, and Patricia Meadows, 65, from Stratford-upon-Avon.

'I've been terrified'

Mrs Middleton, a former local government officer, welcomed the decision: "I've been terrified of going blind - at last I can look forward to the future and feel positive about it."

Mr Liggins cares for his wife Olive who has suffered a stroke. He feared that without treatment he would not be able to look after her.

He said: "I'm over the moon - I can't stop smiling. This result means all the world to me and Olive.

"It's an absolutely fantastic result and wonderful for everyone who didn't think they had a chance of getting treatment."

Steve Winyard, from RNIB, said: "The battle has undoubtedly put unnecessary strain on the three people at the heart of this case and wasted public money.

"For other PCTs currently denying sight-saving treatment to patients in their care, our message is clear - change your policy now."

Warwickshire Primary Care Trust insisted that it had not changed its policy on Lucentis, simply that it could not be funded without the Novartis cost-sharing deal.

A spokesman said: "The draft guidance states if the NHS meets the treatment and cost of 14 doses of the drug for any one individual, the cost of any further doses for that individual would be met by the manufacturer.

"Today the reimbursement scheme has been finalised for Warwickshire and the PCT is able to provide Lucentis, in line with NICE's Final Appraisal Determination."

A spokesman for Novartis said: "We hope that launching an interim reimbursement scheme will provide immediate access to ranibizumab for patients that were previously unable to access this treatment."

Sight-drug battle in High Court
10 Jul 08 |  Health
Sight-saving injection approved
02 Apr 08 |  Health
Woman in High Court sight battle
27 Jun 08 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Man in NHS battle 'to save sight'
22 Jan 08 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Age-related macular degeneration
13 Jun 02 |  Medical notes

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