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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Cancer patient protest over drugs
Herceptin
Herceptin is already used to treat advanced breast cancer
A breast cancer sufferer is protesting after Welsh patients were given free drug treatment at a hospital where women from Shropshire have to pay.

Local health boards in Wales fund treatment for Herceptin in full, unlike the Shropshire Primary Care Trust.

Shropshire women face a 47,000 bill at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Margaret Bradford, from Oswestry, is staging a protest at the hospital on Monday.

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson is to write to the health secretary.

Ms Bradford started her treatment privately at Christie Hospital in Manchester at a cost of about 32,000.

'Two miles away'

Mr Paterson said the situation was a "classic postcode lottery" and he would contact Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to express his disgust.

"All these women in Shropshire have paid their taxes but they have had to raise huge sums of money, while women two miles away in Wales are getting the drug in the same hospital for free," he said.

"It's wrong that if you live the wrong side of the border you don't get the same drug."

The 544-bed Royal Shrewsbury Hospital provides acute care for people in north Shropshire and mid Wales.

Herceptin is currently licensed for use in treating women with advanced breast cancer but it is not yet licensed for use in early stage breast cancer.

Owen Paterson MP
Owen Paterson MP: "Classic postcode lottery"

Some health authorities have approved funding for the treatment of early stage cancer, while others have not.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt had said primary care trusts should not refuse Herceptin treatment on the basis of cost.

A group of cancer patients from Shropshire have said they intend to take their fight to be given Herceptin to the European courts.

Another woman from the county, Susan Morgan, is to get the drug after a businessman said he would pay for her treatment when he read media coverage of her plight.

European courts

Shropshire PCT has said it is waiting until the drug is licensed for treating early stage breast cancer before it approves funding.

A Welsh Assembly spokesman said Herceptin was available "on a case by case basis" on the NHS if a clinician believed it would benefit a patient.

Earlier this year, mother-of-two Jayne Sullivan staged a sit-in at the Welsh Assembly building campaigning for the NHS in Wales to fund Herceptin for women with early stage breast cancer.

Since February, all Welsh local health boards have agreed to pay for the drug for women living in Wales, even if they are treated in England, if their doctor recommends it and they meet the clinical prescribing guidelines for Herceptin.


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