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Variations in access to drugs 'unacceptable', says Rarer Cancers Forum

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A report has revealed more than 1,000 patients suffering from rare forms of cancer may have been denied potentially life-saving drugs because of where they lived.

According to the Rarer Cancers Forum, patients did not always get medication when requesting drugs that had not been licensed for their condition and many were refused treatment.

The charity said the variations in accepted drug requests were “unacceptable” and has called for a number of measures to improve access to treatment for patients with rare cancers.

As part of the Off Limits report, the group collected data from 43 primary care trusts across England about how they dealt with requests for drugs not licensed for a patient’s condition.

It found that many PCTs refused such requests because of funding issues as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence cannot order NHS organisations to provide these treatments for free.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Doctors can use their clinical judgement to prescribe any treatment that will benefit their patient, even if it is outside its licensed indication. Such decisions need to be made in discussion with the patient concerned and funding may need to be agreed with the local PCT.”

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