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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 13:44 GMT
Ex-MP battles NHS over eye drug
Alice Mahon
The disease is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK
A former Halifax MP says she may go to the High Court to force the NHS to provide a drug which she says could help her failing sight.

Alice Mahon, 69, lost most of the sight in one eye due to wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and expects to lose it in the other.

Calderdale Primary Care Trust (PCT) has refused to fund a drug which she says could stabilise or help her condition.

A spokeswoman for the PCT said it did not comment on individual cases.

More than 18,000 people in the UK go blind every year due to wet AMD.

According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind, several PCTs will not fund the drugs to treat the condition.

Suitable for most

Four treatments are currently available for the disease, which affects the central part of the retina and is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.

Two of the treatments only help a small percentage of patients, but two new drugs, Macugen and Lucentis, are suitable for most patients.

Macugen costs about 10,000 a year, and Lucentis costs about 12,000.

Both drugs are currently being appraised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which expects to issue guidance to the NHS in October.

The excuses that the PCTs are giving for not funding treatment are scandalously lame
Alice Mahon

Mrs Mahon was diagnosed with AMD two months ago and is being treated at Calderdale Royal Hospital.

Her solicitor Yogi Amin, from Irwin Mitchell, wrote to her PCT in Calderdale and also Kirklees PCT, saying their refusal to fund the drugs breached her human rights.

Kirklees PCT also said it did not comment on individual cases.

The letter said Mrs Mahon had been forced to fund her urgent treatment privately, at a cost of 5,325, to avoid losing her eyesight while her case was being considered.

She said: "I have been an ardent supporter of the NHS all my life, and now feel totally let down.

"The excuses that the PCTs are giving for not funding treatment are scandalously lame.

'Complex appraisal'

"Everyone has the right to free treatment on the NHS for a condition that results in blindness and devastates lives.

"Supporting people who are blind or partially sighted, who may need home help and suffer injuries from falls, is far more expensive than the treatment."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Patients should not be refused a treatment simply because NICE guidance does not exist yet.

"Macugen and Lucentis are being assessed by NICE against each other to ensure that NHS patients receive clinically and cost-effective treatments.

"It is a complex appraisal and does take some time. It is important that the NICE recommendations are subject to proper consultation.

"But even while this process is taking place doctors can prescribe Macugen within its licensed indications without NICE guidance if they believe it is the right treatment for their patient."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Alice Mahon on her battle for treatment



SEE ALSO
Age-related macular degeneration
13 Jun 02 |  Medical notes

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