Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 10:52 UK

Cancer fight teacher in drug row

A trainee teacher with life-threatening cancer is taking legal action against Surrey Primary Care Trust (PCT) after it refused to fund her treatment.

Philippa Bigham, 28, from Frimley, has a rare form of Hodgkin's lymphoma and has been given just two years to live.

Her medical team has prescribed a new drug which will enable her to undergo a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

But the PCT ruled her case was unexceptional despite the drug being available on the NHS in other areas.

It said funding decisions were not made on financial grounds but according to a patient's "individual clinical needs".

Why should I miss out just because I live in the wrong part of the country?
Philippa Bigham

A spokesman said: "NHS Surrey appreciates that the process of application to the high cost drugs panel is stressful and that the outcome for this patient and family must be hugely disappointing.

"Each application is based on information supplied by the patient's consultant or GP and is thoroughly assessed by an expert panel."

Ms Bigham, a Sussex University graduate, described her situation as "appalling" and an "insult".

"Why should I miss out just because I live in the wrong part of the country?

"All I want is the best chance of beating this and surviving," she said.

As a result of the PCT's decision, her parents have paid £3,000 for her first course of treatment and then a further £13,000 for a lead-lined room in the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.

'Red tape'

But they have now run out of money and their daughter is likely to need a further course of treatment by the beginning of July if she is to have a chance of surviving more than the current two-year prognosis.

Her solicitor, Mathieu Culverhouse, described her case as "heart-rending".

"The NHS exists to save lives, not to tie patients up in red tape. Philippa is truly caught in the postcode lottery," he said.

Her case has now been lodged at the High Court where Ms Bigham's legal team plans to argue her human rights.

Ms Bigham was diagnosed with a primary refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma in November 2006 - a condition which affects just 10% of victims.

She underwent six courses of chemotherapy treatment before doctors recommended the drug Radiolabelled Basiliximab, also known as CHT-25.

A bone marrow donor has been identified but the transplant cannot go ahead without the accompanying treatment.

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