Your Money or Your Life!

Herceptin – dubbed the Wonder Drug.  And so unreachable to all but a selective few.

The government ruled that this breast cancer treatment drug should not be refused on the basis of cost alone – that if doctors feel that the patient will benefit and that the patient is aware of the risks involved, then funds should be found to administer this drug.  Currently, decisions to use Herceptin are made on an individual basis at local levels.

In spite of this ruling, a judge this week has decided that a hospital authority was within its right to refuse the drug to a lady even though her doctors have recommended it.  It was hoped that the outcome of this legal challenge would mean that many other women would benefit from Herceptin but the implications for these women are now grim.  How distressing for this woman and others like her whose treatment depends on where they live or how much money they have. This particular lady, a mother of four whose last hopes were pinned on receiving this next course of treatment, has now run out of money after borrowing £5000 for her treatment.

How cruel it must be to know there is a drug out there that can enhance the chances of surviving cancer and can prolong the life of a cancer-sufferer but to then be denied this drug because it is so expensive to administer.

And why do drugs like Herceptin have to be so expensive?  Don’t taxpayers contribute towards the research and development of such drugs?  Pharmaceuticals are huge profit-making industries.  I wonder, would it perhaps be in their interest to keep such drugs exclusive?

And whilst they play market games and their profits soar, real-life women are re-mortgaging their homes to pay for treatment. 


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by spyder on February 16, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    Earthpal this is such a tricky issue, while I accept that this woman does deserve every oppurtunity to fight the plague that cancer is, the more stories I hear about this drug, the more I find myself siding with the court.

    As you know I am someone who wishes to see a degree of privatisation with the health service. I firmly believe that this and similar cases proves my point.

    The government has invested heavily in what is a dead horse. The health service is so vast and so reliant on expensive treatment that there simply is not enough money to go around. If we are to give this drug to this woman, how many others will follow her lead, how many health services will be declared bankrupt as a result? I honestly do wish that we could give this drug to those who required it, however the treasury purse is only so large. Like every organisation, and every household the health service is restricted by its budget. It would be so nice if we could give everyone the health they need, sadly this simply does not happen. The only way it could happen is by a vast increase on what already is a large tax burden.

    In my view the answer to the problem is privatisation for those on a higher income bracket, making people on medium and higher income brackets have health insurance and be in reciept of private medical treatment. The idea that government can solve the problems of everyone’s health is simply not on.

    I do agree that the pharmecutical companies do hold our health services to ransom somewhat. However, the health service currently buys 60% of medicine from non-patent firms.

    Sadly as a free marketeer, they can charge what they wish. That does not make it right, but there are times in life when we must adopt a principle, even though that principle can be hard to stand by at difficult times.


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