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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 01:33 GMT
Woman 'denied sight-save drugs'
A grandmother has said she will go blind unless she can persuade her local NHS to fund drug treatment.

Margaret Coates, 79, from Bromley, south-east London, has wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can lead to blindness in both eyes.

Her local Primary Care Trust (PCT) will not pay for a drug called Lucentis, Mrs Coates said.

Bromley PCT said patients who did not meet London-wide treatment criteria could apply for exceptional treatment.

Wet AMD, which affects the central part of the retina, is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting around a quarter of a million people.

The thought of going blind terrifies me
Margaret Coates

Last year the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that NHS patients with wet AMD should be eligible for sight-saving drug Lucentis.

But the availability of the treatment, which can cost thousands of pounds, varies between PCTs.

Mrs Coates, 79, said: "I can't believe the PCT is abandoning me like this when I could lose my sight.

"The thought of going blind terrifies me"

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Macular Disease Society (MDS) are campaigning for Bromley PCT to reverse its decision and fund the treatment.

'Unique factor'

Bromley PCT said it funds Lucentis treatment for Bromley residents with AMD in line with criteria agreed for the whole of south-east London.

"Patients who do not meet these criteria can apply through their clinician to the PCT's exceptional treatments group," a spokesman said.

In order to qualify there must be an "unusual or unique clinical factor" that differentiates the patient from others with the condition, he said.

Last month former Second World War pilot Jack Tagg, 88, from Torquay, Devon, won his own battle for NHS treatment for AMD.

Torbay Care Trust offered to pay for his treatment because there had been a technical error over the decision appeals procedure.



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