Some health trusts 'banning costly cancer drugs', says investigation

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer drugs approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have been banned by some UK health trusts because they are too expensive, according to an investigation by GP newspaper.

Responses to a Freedom of Information request by the publication show that medicines approved for NHS use by NICE have been withheld by one in four of the primary care trusts it researched.

Cancer Research UK, which described the report as "very concerning," said further investigation was needed.

In addition to cancer drugs, medicines used to treat conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes have also been banned by certain trusts.

Eighteen of the 33 trusts that use blacklists have reported that drugs approved by NICE are included on their lists of banned drugs.

Due to cost factors or concerns about their effectiveness, blacklisted drugs are either classified as "not prescribable" or "not recommended for use".

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's director of policy, said all patients should have access to the best treatments to tackle their cancer. "If a clinician believes a patient will benefit from a NICE approved drug, they should get that treatment. This report is very concerning and should be investigated as a priority."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a member of the British Medical Association's GPs committee,said: "If an area is blacklisting a NICE-approved drug, it is breaking its duty of care."

Copyright Press Association 2011