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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Woman sells home for cancer drugs
Barbara Clark
Ms Clark will administer the drugs herself
A woman is to sell her 210,000 home to pay for cancer drugs.

Barbara Clark was diagnosed with breast cancer four months ago and believes a course of Herceptin will greatly improve her chances of survival.

But doctors say that because her illness is not terminal, the drug will not be prescribed for free on the NHS.

The government's cancer tsar, Professor Mike Richards, says everything possible is being done to try to speed up treatment with the drug.

Herceptin is available for certain patients whose cancer is more advanced that Ms Clark's, and available privately.

I think it would be far more sensible to prescribe Herceptin sooner rather than later
Barbara Clark

As a trained nurse, Ms Clark, 49, from Bridgwater, says she will administer the drug herself in a hospital car park.

She is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, having had surgery to remove the tumour.

Herceptin has been shown to be an effective treatment for women with a type of breast cancer associated with over-activity of a gene called HER2.

Clinical trials are currently under way to test its effectiveness on women in the earlier stages of the illness.

Private patients

Ms Clark said: "Many people would not be aware of this drug, but I knew of it because of my nursing background.

"Trials on women in the US and Europe with this cancer showed it increased life expectancy in the early stages by 52%.

"I think it would be far more sensible to prescribe Herceptin sooner rather than later when in the later stages it can only prolong life by a few months."

Barbara Clark outside her home
Ms Clark has years of nursing experience

She added that one consultant in Bristol was offering Herceptin for 1,600 per dose to private patients, with a year's treatment costing 27,000.

Breast cancer specialist Simon Cawthorne, said clinical trials were showing benefits, and this could lead to greater pressure on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

"If this evidence continues, then we are looking at a new drug which is better than others, accepting it will only work for certain women."

Benefits shown

But he said prescribing it on a wider basis was not an option because a licence had not been granted.

A spokesman for Ms Clark's primary care trust, Somerset Coast PCT, said it supported the treatment and care plans recommended by specialists and would welcome guidance from NICE.

"We sympathise with every patient who finds themselves in this situation," she said.

In a statement, NICE said guidelines on Herceptin as a method of treatment were available on its website.

Andrew Lansley, Conservative shadow health secretary, said steps needed to be taken to ensure that standards adopted by NICE for the drug's prescription to eligible patients were "fully met and fully funded".

"I am sorry to hear about this case. Herceptin can double survival chances of breast cancer," said Mr Lansley.


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