I thought it might be better not to post again in Bessie's thread as it was originally about a quite different subject, and I don't want to look as if I'm muscling in on it!
On reflection, quite apart from the precise medical conditions that apply to you, it just could be that your doctor is being affected by the parlous state of cancer drug prescriptions and the NHS.
As I said, I know that Sutent is perilously expensive and is not, so far as I know, available yet on the NHS in this country (I think that is so but I'd be delighted for someone to say otherwise!), and there has been a fair amount in the national press about it recently. There was an article recently in the Sunday Times (June l5th)
entitled: "Banned cancer drugs better than NHS ones"
From the article: "One drug for kidney cancer, routinely available through public health systems in most European countries but not to British patients, can reduce the size of tumours in 31% of patients, compared with just 6% of those prescribed the standard NHS drug.....
"Research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that kidney patients taking the new drug Sutent lived six months longer than those prescribed alpha interferon, the NHS treatment.
"The failure of the NHS to make more effective drugs available to cancer patients has been condemned as “unethical” by leading doctors.
"John Wagstaff, professor of oncology at Swansea University, said: “This has created a very difficult situation for us. Having seen the latest data, I believe it is now pretty unethical to give many patients alpha interferon [rather than Sutent]. We are often forced to prescribe interferon because we do not have access to Sutent [on the NHS], but I am always upfront with the patients. I tell them what I think the most effective treatment is.”
"Eight times as many patients in Germany and France receive Sutent as in Britain, according to figures held by Pfizer, the manufacturer. Sutent, which costs about £2,200 a month compared with about £800 for the NHS drug, is one of a number of life-prolonging new drugs at the centre of the co-payments row.
"In advanced kidney cancer, when the patient cannot be treated with any other drug, Nexavar, another medicine, can double the period when the disease is held under control.
"A trial of Nexavar, comparing the effect of the drug with a placebo, showed it to be so effective that the trial had to be halted early as it was considered unethical not to give it to all the patients in the test. Tumours were prevented from growing for an average of 5.5 months in patients taking Nexavar, against 2.8 months in those taking the placebo. Despite the findings, Nexavar is not routinely funded by the NHS."
What is even more scandalous is that the rule sent down from the Minister of Health is that if a patient dares to pay for a non-NHS drug themselves, out of their own savings, they will then forfeit ALL their NHS care - which is things like doctor appointments, blood tests, CT scans, any other approved NHS drugs, etc. ie, that 'co-payments' as they are called, where the patient themselves subsidises the NHS, are not allowed. So, on top of the dreadful burden to pay for your own life-extending drug, you have to pay for all the other health care as well ,as if you were a completely private patient!
If you keep looking at the Sunday Times articles there is a great deal of coverage on this. There is now so much fuss about this - including by many doctors, who are furious that the government is effectively condemning people to death - that the government says it will 'review' the sitation, and some hospitals are now - at last! - quietly dropping the requiremetn for a patient buying top up drugs to keep going to be kicked off the NHS.
What I think galls me most about this is that whilst I can understand the fear in principle that this is 'all very well' for those who CAN afford the private drugs, but that such a 'two-tier' NHS is unfair to those who cannot (though of course lots of people point out that all sorts of other 'private' treatments don't mean you forfeit the NHS cover!), this objection is being made by someone who simply won't personally be likely to be bothered by it!
I will, at this point, put my 'crusading' helmet on again - and say that I have just checked the salary for the Minister of Health
....if he is a Minister of State, his salary is listed as £101,000 (and if he's a Cabinet Minister, it's £138k). Now, I think if you earn that kind of salary, being a private patient is not going to be much of a problem to you, is it? Unlike for the mass of the people who voted you into that lucrative job....
To me, for ANYONE earning that kind of money to presume to condemn their own voters to an earlier death than medical science can give them by denying them life-extending treatment on the NHS, is absolutely disgraceful. He's not likely to have to walk in our shoes, is he??!
Surely, if the government really is concerned about a two-tier NHS penalising those who cannot afford private drugs at all, one 'half way compromise' would be to say that those who CAN afford to pay for their own non-NHS cancer drugs should do so, but for anyone falling beneath that threshold, they should be available free. No one should die of poverty in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, with money to lavish on anythign from the Olympics to the EU gravy train....especially not when that death sentence is issued by a man earning £100,000.
As I say, cost/NHS may not at all be the reason your oncologist is prescribing interferon, but I think he should tell you if it is.
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